A quiet, sunny morning on Groovy.
Mark does some engine
We started waxing the hull side by side in the kayak...
...but after I fell in, Mark was on his own.
Chilly, Ivan and Christopher chat with us in the morning.
The whistles and calls of an aviary beckon.
The lovebirds are a little
suspicious of the camera.
A window-wall of empty liquor
bottles stacked on their sides.
Wine barrels stand in the courtyard of the Santo
Tomas tasting room.
A grand entrance...
...and equally grand interior.
The Santo Tomas Scirocco Syrah
A French Fromagerie in the middle of Mexico.
Strawberries for sale.
A horse and buggy run by with a wave.
Two tigers look out at the streets of Ensenada.
La Vendimia (the Grape Harvest), a favorite cruiser
hangout on Thursday afternoons.
Yako, the Media Man
Fidela, The Vegetable Lady
The Flower Guy
A love note coded in English.
More discoveries in Ensenada, Mexico
Early May, 2010 - After the excitement of the bike and boat races, life at
Hotel Coral & Marina simmered way down again. The weather slowly
began to show signs of warming, letting us run around in t-shirts and
shorts for a few hours every day. We passed the halfway mark of our six
month stay in Ensenada, and the pace of our preparations for a life "on the
hook" at sea began to quicken. Even though Groovy is virtually brand
new, there were still puzzling things to fix and many things to maintain as
well as lots of things to add to make the boat cruise-ready.
Mark did some engine maintenance,
changing the engine oil and
transmission oil and cleaning out the
strainer that filters the engine's sea
water intake (the engine is cooled by
sea water rather than by a radiator). It
was amazing to see the little oceanic ecosystem that had been growing in the sea strainer,
and the engine sparkled once he was finished.
The outside of the boat
needed a good wax job
too, and we tackled it in
stages. Everyday we'd
do a small section, using
two different waxes, first
removing oxidation and
then giving it a real
shine. We decided to
use the kayak to wax
the sides of the hull,
kneeling in it side by side. All went well on the aft section of
the boat as we got used to maneuvering on a moving platform. I hopped out to grab fresh towels for us while Mark moved the
kayak forward a few feet and tied it off to Groovy. This time, rather than climbing in from the dock, I had to lower myself down
to the kayak from the deck of the boat. I grabbed the stainless steel stanchions at the gate and began to lower myself down.
"I'll guide your foot," Mark said helpfully as he grabbed my ankle. That was a relief, as I suddenly realized the kayak was a lot
further down than I thought.
I soon found myself doing a full split, with one foot still on the boat
and the other groping frantically for the kayak. Suddenly I felt my
grip loosen on the stanchions and I said a quick prayer that
Mark's expert guidance would land my foot and the rest of me in
the kayak. No such luck. My foot found the water and then the
water found my whole body as I plunged in. Mark had a death-
grip on my shirt as I spluttered to the surface. "Let go of my
shirt!" I shrieked as I splashed towards the dock. I heaved myself
onto the warm concrete dock and laid there on my back like a
beached whale, laughing til my sides ached.
Miraculously, no one had seen our stunt. Usually, anything you
do around your slip in a marina is done in front of an appreciative audience, complete with cheers and heckles and
goodnatured ribbing. Well, at least I got out of the waxing chore for the rest of the day. Our friends who work in the marina,
Chilly, Ivan and Christopher all got a kick out of our tale. Ivan and Chris spend their days diving in the marina, cleaning the
bottoms of the boats. Chris and Chilly speak English very well, and they patiently help us through our halting Spanish.
One of our boat preparation projects was to upgrade our
anchor and replace our chain/rope anchor rode combination
with one that was all chain. In the process I learned more
about types of chain, manufacturers of chain, dimensions
and galvanizing of chain, and the vagaries of Chinese-made
chain than I ever thought I could know. Our boat had left the
factory with a modest anchor setup, but the previous owner's
attempt at upgrading the rode had resulted in the wrong size
chain attached to a wonderful length of brand new anchor
line. In the end, we wanted to attach this new rope to a short
length of the right size chain to use as a spare.
Chain and anchor line get connected to each other with a
beautiful type of braiding that allows the transition point to
slip through the anchor windlass without binding it up. I
found a great website that explains how to do this kind of
knot and it looked so easy (here). I laid out the chain and opened the end of the three-strand nylon rope and started the
process. After about an hour of starting and re-starting, replaying the knot-tying video over and over and struggling to open
the tight twists of line to weave the ends through, I asked Chilly if he could help.
Chilly spent many years as a commercial fisherman, plying the entire eastern Pacific coast from Alaska to Peru, and not only
can he do a hilarious imitation of all the different Spanish accents (and facial expressions) that can be found along that coast,
he is a whiz with knot-tying.
I had figured I'd take photos of his hands as he went along so next time I could do it myself. I also figured he'd scratch his
head at least once before getting going. But his hands flew, fast and furious, right from the start. Accompanied by occasional
om-like chants of "mmm-Hmmm," the rope flip-flopped in his hands as he wove the ends back on themselves effortlessly. He
paused now and then just long enough to give it a firm tug and utter a satisfied "hmmm."
"You see, you skip one then go under the next one." It sounded good, but I didn't quite see. "This is easy rope to work with
because it's brand new. It's much harder on the ships when the line is old and filled with salt." I tried my hand at the final few
braids, grunting as I tried to open the impossibly tight weave. The line was ultra stiff and the pattern still escaped me. I
suspect it takes a lot of hours on a rolling boat (and probably with a demanding captain) to master that knot like Chilly has.
But the finished product was a lovely braided section. Chilly
grabbed a hot-knife and sealed off the three ends. He handed the
finished work to me with a shrug. "See, it's not hard," he smiled --
Out in town we kept exploring new neighborhoods. In many ways,
walking the streets of Ensenada is like stepping back in time. The
storefronts are small, jammed together cheek by jowl, and most
shopkeepers have a specialty. We passed a barbershop with no
patrons and saw the barber snoozing peacefully in his chair, head
thrown back and mouth open. Next door was a shoeshine shop
overflowing with patrons. The brushes, polish and banter flew as the
customers held their shoes out for buffing.
I heard the familiar chirping of
parakeets and stopped at a gate to
gaze at a huge aviary set back from
the street in a garden. A lady came to the gate and let us in as I explained that I used to raise
budgies and am a bird lover. These guys were making a happy racket, and we discovered
nest boxes filled with cockatiels, conures and lovebirds as well. "Do you know that the English
word for these birds is 'love bird?'" I asked her in Spanish. She told me the Spanish word for
them is "párajo de amor," which has the same meaning. I was surprised the birds would take
the same name in two languages until I looked it up later: their scientific name, "agapornis,"
comes from the Greek words for "love bird." Of course anyone who has hung around these
colorful little stubby birds knows that they can be rather argumentative, even crotchety, lovers.
Around the corner we found the back end
of the huge in-town sales complex for the
nearby winery Santo Tomás. First we saw
the wine barrels lined up outside the
building. The brick wall had intriguing
"windows" that had been constructed of
liquor bottles stacked on their sides.
Pretty purple flowers hung down from a
Out front the wine tasting room features a
grand entrance and and equally elegant
interior. We haven't yet been out to the
vineyard itself, but some time spent with
the salespeople here has put a trip to the
vineyard high on our "to do" list.
The Mexican wines of this region are
becoming internationally recognized,
and this winery has a strong line-up of
medal winning wines.
Outside the winery is a
French Fromagerie in a
little brick kiosk structure.
How funny to walk into a
little brick building filled
with huge rounds of French
This whole neighborhood has a
colorful flair. There is a French
bakery and a natural food store
and other specialty shops that
give these few blocks an
international aura. Each shop is
barely 12'x12' inside, but what
fun to duck inside each one and
find gourmet products from around the world.
Strawberries were in season, and we picked up several boxes.
Rather than leaving them in their cartons, as would be done
back home, all our little boxes were emptied into a big plastic
bag for easy carrying.
Wandering back towards the tourist roads along the harbor front, I again
got a chance to catch a horse-and-buggy in my lens. Mexicans so often
love a photo op, and this guy was no exception, giving me a wave and
suggesting we hop in for a $3 ride around town. Another time.
We turned up another street and heard all kinds of noise blaring from a
vehicle as someone yelled incomprehensible Spanish in a loudspeaker. I
turned and saw a pickup pulling two cages, one containing a black
panther and one with two tigers. Where were they off to? Who knows.
Gotta learn more Spanish so I can understand these things!
Every Thursday night the cruisers from the
marinas around town all gather at a restaurant
called "La Vendimia" ("The Grape Harvest"). Run
by Katrina, a Liverpool-raised British ex-pat who
knew George Harrison and watched the Beatles
play at The Cavern Club every week before they
hit the international stage, this little gem of a
watering hole offers two-for-one specials for
Happy Hour and a free spaghetti dinner. So for $7 or $8 we can
both have a few beers and dinner and see all the faces behind the
boat names we hear on the Cruiser's Radio Net every morning.
Besides the fun ambiance, Katrina's
charm and the amazing prices, the thing
that keeps the cruisers coming back
week after week is the guest stars who
drop by every Thursday. Most
important is Jacko, a Huichol
descendent of the Aztecs who is an
artist and has studied Linguistics at
prestigious American universities. He
comes to La Vendimia every Thursday
night to take orders for and deliver very
inexpensive movies and music on DVD
and CD. These then get passed around and shared at the
Wednesday morning cruisers breakfast. When Jacko arrives,
eager customers jump up from their barstools to hand him their
lists of "must have" movies and to pick up their delivery from the previous week.
The other main event on Thursday nights is the arrival of the Vegetable Lady. She grows
organic vegetables in her garden and comes with a huge box of beautiful vegetables for
sale. When she shows up another group of happy customers all vanish from the bar and
pack around her like flies, oohing and aahing over the beauty of her baby carrots, zucchini,
sweet peppers and shelled peas.
Usually a Mariachi band will wander
through at some point, stopping for
an appreciative table and singing
their hearts out. One evening they
even inspired Mark to take me to
the dance floor, and soon almost the whole motley crew of sailors was
jigging around on the dance floor. The Flower Guy swings through
every Thursday as well, offering beautiful flowers for romantic men to
buy for their starry eyed loves. I have a feeling he has better luck at
the bars where the cruise ship tourists go than with the crusty old
salts at La Vendimia.
My own love surprised me one
day by putting a sweet note in my
shower bag. I always stop for a
few minutes to talk to the women that give out the towels at the hotel spa where we
grungy cruisers get to take our luxurious showers (such a life!). Their English is just a
smidgeon better than my Spanish, but they get a kick out of watching me stammer
through whatever I have to say. I always rehearse a little something before I walk in so I
can try to improve. When Mark's note fluttered out of my shower bag onto the floor I saw
a perfect opportunity to engage Erica, a sweet young girl at the desk who blushes and
giggles every time she says something in English. "Mark wrote this for me," I said. "It's in
English." She examined the note and I gave her a start, "I..." "love you," she finished.
Her cheeks dimpled as she smiled at me. She pointed to a flower on her desk from her
"novio" (boyfriend) who is "muy guapo" (very handsome). What fun. This is a truly
magical time in our lives.
A week later my mom came to visit, and we had a chance to share with her some of Ensenada's treasures, including the
famous blow hole and zany crazy tourist scene at La Bufadora.
Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.