A megayacht too large for Marina Coral anchors outside.
"Inspiration" leaves Ensenada for
Alabama via the Panama Canal.
Fearless cancer survivor Richard Dreschler of "Last
Resort" provides true inspiration.
Two little boys at Marina Coral keep us all
young at heart.
Hanging in the rigging.
A whale breaches as we approach.
A juvenile black crowned
Lined up for the "Re-corre tu Puerto" 6K race.
This is a race for people of all
ages, and not just those on foot.
A wedding at scenic Hotel Coral &
You may kiss the bride...
Papas & Beer 5K race, Sol Beer gals and rock
A youth running group stretches before the race.
The Sol Beer gals play with the finish line tape...
...but the tape is intact when the winner arrives.
The raffle grand prize is a trip to New York.
Emeterio Nava and Mark swap stories about runners
and races in the 1980's.
Personalities & Running Races in Ensenada
July, 2010 - Although we ventured out of town for a wonderful
day on La Ruta del Vino, we found there was always more
than enough action in town to keep us very busy. Marina
Coral is one of three major marinas in Ensenada, and boating
travelers heading both north and south stop here for fuel,
provisions, rest and a spell in the hot tub. Many mornings
we'd be woken at oh-dark-thirty by the sound of an engine in
the water as a new boat arrived or as a boat we had just met
The marina can handle boats over 100' long, but some
travelers float about in such grand style that their yacht can neither negotiate the skinny entrance nor tie up at the docks
without hanging way over. These guys have to anchor outside the marina entrance. Whenever one showed up it was always
worth a kayak ride to go check it out. Seeing a helicopter perched on deck, ready to take the owners ashore, was proof
enough that these people lived in a different economic stratosphere than any we'd ever know.
Even more fun was meeting all the folks returning from their adventures down south during
the springtime migration up the west coast. As hurricane season approaches each year,
the cruisers in southern Mexico either stay close to harbors where they can find refuge
from sudden tempests or they come north to spend the summer sailing in southern
California. All had fascinating tales of their adventures in the tropics, and on many
occasions we sat spellbound in their cockpits, our Mexican cruising guide opened wide and
pen in hand, as we listened to them describe the places they had been.
Once in a while a boat would take off in the opposite direction, heading south towards the
Panama Canal for adventures in the Caribbean. Aptly named Inspiration, a motor yacht left
the marina one grey morning bound for Alabama via the Central American coast, Panama
Canal and Western Caribbean. The final destination wasn't particularly exotic, but most
ports in between would surely offer up adventures of all kinds.
The travelers stopping in at Hotel Coral & Marina ranged from a young couple in their early
thirties fresh off an 8 month Mexican sabbatical escaping high paying jobs at Microsoft to a
nearly 80-year-old retired physician who had spent the last 17 years cruising Central
America. One couple had purchased a big beautiful brand new catamaran right from the
factory in France and sailed it from France to Ensenada via the Caribbean, while another
couple set out on a tiny 1970's vintage thirty footer to see what they could find in the South
Pacific and New Zealand. Meeting people like this on a daily basis was refreshing and eye opening.
But perhaps the most inspirational story of all was that of Richard
Dreschler aboard Last Resort, a Catalina 470. Diagnosed in 2005 with
a particularly complicated form of throat cancer that was expected to
kill him in a few months, Richard battled the disease into remission and
in 2008 took off with his wife Sharon to go cruising. Alaska was first on
their agenda, and a year later they went south to Mexico. We met
them on their way back to California before they restarted their
journey, this time for Central America, through the Canal, the
Caribbean and on to the Mediterranean. All this exotic travel, and yet
Richard is unable to eat. He survives on a special medically
formulated liquid diet because his esophagus is only a pencil thickness
wide. As he said to me casually, "My neck has been completely
reconstructed." For anyone who is letting fear hold them from
pursuing their dreams, this man is an inspiration.
While pondering the meaning of life and dreams,
we got daily entertainment from a charming pair
of boys who lived aboard a boat in a slip nearby.
Aged five and seven, and growing up with a
degree of freedom that would make most kids
extremely jealous, we watched them cavorting
everywhere. They rode their bikes up and down
the docks, catching air whenever possible,
terrifying all us wiser folks that they would fly off
into the water. But they had the confidence of top
BMX racers and never missed. When they
wanted to climb the rigging, their parents simply
strung them up in their sailing harnesses so they
could play safely. Families with children are rare
in traveling lifestyles, and it was pure joy to watch these
little monkeys as they hung by their knees and chased
each other all over the docks.
Out in the bay many mini whale families
had migrated up from the south. Mama
whales could be seen all around
babysitting their calves. Unlike the
wintertime when the whales had been on
a mission to get from Point A to Point B,
we now found them lolling around, resting,
sleeping, and probably watching their
calves cavorting under water as we had
been watching those boys on the docks.
Another creature arrived at the marina
around this time too. Late each afternoon
a flock of big, noisy birds would show up,
taking over the marina as if it were their own. We didn't pay much attention at first, simply
tuning out their shrill, raucous cries. But when we found evidence of their nightly fishing
expeditions all over the deck of our boat in the form of bird poop, we stood up and took notice.
These bombers were big and loud, and when they dropped their payload it sounded like
someone was spraying the boat with a hose. But they were wonderfully funny characters too.
They were black crowned night herons, and once darkness fell their favorite fishing spots were
on the docklines that each boat had tied across its slip. Marina Coral is only half-full at the
moment, so every boat enjoyed a double slip to itself. Because the surge is significant, most
boats tied several docklines across the adjacent empty slip to the cleats on the far side. As
evening fell, each heron would choose a dockline and then gingerly step out onto it like a tight
rope walker, testing the line with its toes a few times before venturing out.
Once out in the middle of the line, the bird would patiently ride
up and down as the line tightened and loosened below him,
rising and falling with the surge. Scanning the water for fish
(and on many nights the water was literally boiling and popping
because there were so many small fish near the surface), the bird would time his catch with
the movement of the rope. But sometimes he would line up his perfect catch, extend his neck
and beak towards the water ready to snatch the fish, only to have the line begin to tighten
below him and raise him up and out of reach of his prey. Oh well, better luck next time. We
laughed out loud watching these antics through the window. However, despite the
complication of fishing from a rising and falling platform, the herons always got their fill by
night's end and deposited the digested remains on the deck of our boat and all over the
docks. Personally, I thought the evening's comedy show was worth the mess in the morning.
A brief stop at a running store in town got us hooked on running
once again. A 6K running race was coming up, sponsored by the Port of Ensenada, and
suddenly we found ourselves in training. I did too much too soon on broken down shoes and
put myself out of commission with a bum knee almost immediately, but Mark trained diligently,
increasing his efforts slowly. By race day his bib #1 looked pretty good on his chest. Usually
reserved for seeded racers, he got the number by virtue of having been the first to sign up for
We didn't know what to expect, but Glenda, the race
organizer said free t-shirts would go to the first 600 runners.
Would that many people sign up in the remaining 3 weeks?
What a shock on race day to find the plaza around the
waterfront packed to overflowing with runners, walkers and
Music blared and people of all shapes and sizes stretched and
warmed up around us. Amazingly, there were 900 entrants,
and from what I could see we were the only Gringos to show
up. But running has a culture and a language all its own. This
was a day for racers and a day for families, and it didn't matter
if you were on foot or on wheels, it was all about having a good
Unlike races in the US where there is a hefty entrance fee,
timing chips tied into your shoelaces, and special recognition for
winners of different age groups, this race was free and your
finishing time was a private matter between you and the race clock. However, a huge raffle at the end made many folks
winners -- of gym memberships, running shoe discounts, and even an all expense paid vacation to Las Vegas. What a fun
way to celebrate the running spirit.
Back at Hotel Coral we discovered that July is
wedding month. During our runs and walks along
the waterfront into town we could see catering
trucks and wedding receptions being set up at villas
all along our route every weekend. One Saturday
morning we counted nine different weddings under
construction for that afternoon. Hotel Coral is a
picturesque spot for a wedding, and while sitting in
the hot tub with a wedding party on the day of their
rehearsal, I found out the hour of the wedding the
next day and snuck back with my camera.
Mark's race time in the Re-Corre tu Puerto race
wasn't quite up to the standard he sets for himself.
So he was thrilled to find out there was another
race in a few weeks sponsored by the popular bar
Papas & Beer ("Papas" are potatoes).
He trained carefully and hard,
and was definitely in high
spirits when race day
arrived. Even bigger than
the previous running race,
this one attracted 1500
entrants, and again we
were just about the only
Gringos that I could see.
Running clubs gathered
here and there, and a
high school team did
group stretches nearby.
Mark took off to warm up while the sexy Sol Beer gals entertained the
rest of us on the stage. A cheerleading group did acrobatics nearby.
The music was loud and the place was
humming as everyone gathered under the
Tecate beer sign for the start of the race. Suddenly
the gun sounded and they were off. Milling around
the now empty streets, we all waited with high
anticipation for racers to bring the life back to the
party. The Sol Beer gals played with the finish line
tape and the race clock slowly ticked away.
Suddenly the winner appeared, led by a police
car with sirens wailing and lights flashing, and
the excitement returned. Mark shaved a few
minutes off his time and was ecstatic that at 56
he hasn't lost it yet. But checking the world
track and field records online a little later, he
discovered that in his age group the 5K world record is 15:37, faster, ahem, than his fastest pace in his
prime. Those records hold a lot of hope, however, as there is a 100+ age group for several distances.
For the 400 meter (~1/4 mile), the 100-year-old world record holder cooked along at less than a 15
minute per mile pace. Merely being alive at 100, never mind donning running shorts, pinning on a race
number and jogging around a track, is remarkable.
The Papas & Beer race is all about family fun, not record setting,
however. The party went on for hours as sweaty runners downed water
and oranges and bananas. Cheering spouses, grandparents and
children exchanged proud smiles. As with the previous race, all the
prizes were awarded through a raffle, and the grand prize was an all
expense paid trip to New York. Of course visiting the US requires
government paperwork, and these days the US is not making it easy for
Mexicans to vacation north of the border. As a Mexican friend
explained to me, applying for the mandatory $200 US visa is not as
easy as it sounds. The visa might or might not be granted by the US
government, and sadly, if your application is rejected you won't get a
refund. This makes it a risky bit of government paperwork to purchase,
especially since the minimum wage in Mexico is around $5 per day.
The grand prize trip to NYC was won by four different raffle ticket
holders before the eventual winner -- a bona fide US travel visa holder -- was actually able to accept it.
Government policies pale next to personal friendships,
however, and Mark discovered he had a lot in common with
race organizer Emeterio Nava. Both had raced in the same
era, and they knew a lot of the same runners. Mark
mentioned Mexican legend Arturo Barrios whom he had long
admired for setting the open road 10K world record (among
several other world records) in 1989. Emeterio grinned
broadly and said, "He's a good friend of mine!" and promptly
called him on his cell phone and handed the phone to Mark.
What do you say to an idol?
These were our final weeks in Ensenada. Our emotions were
becoming bittersweet as we realized we could count the days until
our departure. One last week at the Baja Naval boatyard would
complete our stay before we headed off into the sunrise for
Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.