It’s getting warmer! San Diego and Mexico!! Part I – Ensenada and San Quintin

We arrived in Dana Point as two Nordhavns, and we left as a Noodle.  What’s a Noodle you ask?  Watch our friend Alexa Shanafelt’s awesome Nordhavn Film Festival submission for the full story.  The quick answer is that a Noodle (#Noodle) is a group of three or more Nordhavns travelling together.  Epoch, Gitana (also a N55) and Red Rover left early on Monday morning, October 14th heading south for San Diego.  We had a smooth, beautiful ride on flat seas with gorgeous sunshine.  It was great fun to have a third boat with us!  We met Hugo and Michelle Cookson who own Gitana back in January when Don Kohlmann of the Seattle PAE/Nordhavn office asked us if we would show them Red Rover, as they were looking at a N55.  Hugo and Michelle owned a N47 (Cuervo) in Europe previously and their stories of cruising the Mediterranean are super inspiring to us.

Taco Noodle leaving Dana Point

We arrived at the Public Dock (also called the Police Dock) on Shelter Island in San Diego, got tied up and toasted our good fortune with a beer on the dock.  The public dock was an interesting experience.  It began with the three of us and a whole bunch of “local color” boats – individuals who move around the bay looking for moorage or an anchorage as what seems to be a full-time pursuit.  These folks turned out to be super friendly and helpful for the most part.  As time passed in San Diego the character of the marina changed with the arrival of more cruising boats, consisting mostly of sailboats participating in the Baja Ha Ha (which has over 150 participating boats this year!).  The change in marina-mates brought a heightened level of energy and excitement.  We are all cruising to Mexico!

Fun at the fuel dock!

We spent our time in San Diego relaxing, taking really long walks with the dogs, watching the fascinating movements of the US military as they go about their drills and practices, eating and completing provisioning projects. My parents also came from Boston to visit us in San Diego for six days which was fun.  We did some exploring, went on a harbor tour (and fuel dock visit) on Red Rover, and enjoyed more eating and sun-worshipping.  We also took Zoe and Max to the vet to get their official paperwork to head into Mexico. While my parents have visited us on the boat in Seattle, it is now a bit different as we are actively cruising, so it was cool to have them meet some of our “boat family.”

Zoe swimming with the warships
So we can actually use this flybridge down here!
A daily “wow”

San Diego also marked the true gathering of the Taco Run participants as well as an opportunity to connect with some of our other Nordhavn friends. One by one the Taco Run boats arrived either at the public dock or at one of the other Shelter Island marinas.

Who is running for tacos with us, you might ask?

  • Epoch (N47) – Scott Allen and Abby Nicholson (we’ve been together since early September now!) – hailing port West Richland, WA
  • Gitana (N55) – Hugo and Michelle Cookson with friend Hugh along, hailing port Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Last Arrow (N60) – Vincent and Linda Cummings, with Sam Landsman along (yes, another leader has joined this cruise!), hailing port Vancouver, BC, Canada – a BRAND NEW gorgeous 60!
  • Audrey Mae (N57) – Alec Girard and Lisa McLeod, hailing port Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • Igloo (N47) – Jeff and Shannon Huber, hailing port Wasila, Alaska
  • Partida (N46) – Mike and Elaine Bremmer, hailing port Santa Fe, NM

On Thursday night before our departure we, of course, had a taco party on Red Rover with the other Taco Runners and special guests Nicole and Mike Potter, owners of N62 Pendana.  Mike and Nicole spent quite a bit of time cruising Mexico in their previous boat N47 Sloboda (now N47 Igloo!) and had lots of great intel to share.  It was exciting to get everyone together and realize that we were actually doing this!  We knew many of the other boats/owners prior to this gathering but there were some fun new people for us to meet – and know that we’d be spending the next month together cruising on our beloved vessels.  It was a very cool evening.

One evening we had an amazing meal on Gitana, thanks to Michelle!  (Hugo, Kevin and Michelle in the cockpit of Gitana)

Prior to leaving San Diego we had lots of fun saying hello to other Nordhavn owners, friends Mike and LouAnn Forshee (N46 Silent Runner), former Shilshole neighbors (hello Sailing Samadhi!), and a fun Dreamer couple, Ced and Debbie.  San Diego is cruiser central in October!  The night before departure some of us had dinner at the Kona Kai resort next door where we were joined by the Pendana crew and our friends Larry and Gwen O’Keefe of N50 Miss Miranda.  It was great to see them. We’ll cross paths with them again as we head south.  It was fun to look around the table and see old friends and new, laughing and smiling, full of excitement and adventure. It constantly amazes me that this boat brought us into an incredible community of like-minded people. A Noggle some might say.

We left San Diego as a Taco Noodle on the morning of Sunday, October 27 in sporty conditions (for the first hour or so anyways), and crossed into Mexican waters.  YES!  It was amazing to look around us and see a mini fleet of Nordhavns cruising together. After a fairly uneventful trip we arrived at Marina Coral, a lovely hotel and marina just north of the town of Ensenada.  As we came into the rather tiny entrance, a mariachi band was playing at a wedding reception on shore.  While the music was for the bride and groom, it felt as if we were being welcomed to Mexico.  Pretty cool!  We had huge grins on our faces.  We had a group dinner at the resort’s outside restaurant, toasted to our adventure with margaritas and cervezas and got ready for our morning check-in process.

Just crossed into Mexican waters!  A milestone for us.
The Marina Coral office has a Nordhavn sticker.  How fun!
The team at Marina Coral hung a banner to welcome us.  So lovely!

Eric Leishman from PAE kindly introduced us to Fito, an exceptional gentleman from Marina Coral who arranged for all of the necessary government agencies to come check us into Mexico, and to the Port of Ensenada.  As foreign vessels, we need to check in with the Port Captain at every city we visit (or village, if there is a Port Captain). Ensenada would be our first check-in, as well as the port for us to clear customs and immigration.  Fito also arranged for the SEMARNAT (national park) representatives to be present and they gave a presentation about the passes, and the special parks and reserves where they would be required.  Red Rover already had her TIP (Temporary Import Permit) in order, a document that is required to bring a boat into Mexico.  When we were in Puerto Vallarta last December, we worked with a local agent, Vilma, to get our TIP straightened out in advance. This was a lengthy process as the boat had two active TIPs on it – unusual and extra challenging.  Both had to be cancelled for us to apply for the new TIP.  As one of the previous owners had passed away we had to visit the Federales (federal police) HQ to note that the TIP was “lost” and that we needed a special form to cancel it without the prior owner’s permission.  Needless to say it was an interesting week that involved lots of sad head shaking, many stamps on forms, and a few pesos.

Coffee and tasty cookies for the Taco Runners
Listening and learning about national parks


National park knowledge
Raising the Mexican courtesy flag on Red Rover!

Back to Ensenada.  With approval to enter Mexico, more stamps, more forms and more signatures, we were, as they say, “free to move about the country.”  We spent the next few days in Ensenada at both Marina Coral and Ensenada Cruiseport Village.  One big highlight was a wine dinner that Vince, Linda and Sam arranged. The area around Ensenada is wine country, with beautiful rolling hills covered in vines.  A Sprinter van picked us up and whisked us up into the mountains, down bumpy dirt roads to a small family owned winery called Misiones de California.  The tiny winery was a passion project for the owner and wine maker who taught us about his wines, shared his energy and love, and introduced us to wines in Mexico.  His daughter, a gourmet chef, made us dinner in a makeshift outdoor kitchen complete with a wood-burning grill.  The seven course meal, complete with a wine for each course, was incredible.  What a special night, in every way.  We feasted on grilled octopus, a raw fish dish, beef tenderloin, oxtail and more.  Unbelievable.  The ride home was also remarkable, but more so because of the carpool karaoke that occurred.  These Nordhavn people are fun.

Olive trees on approach to the winery
Sunset view at the winery
Our incredible chef for the evening, and Abby!


The winemaker explaining his wines to us in the wine cave
Wine cave
The outdoor kitchen with dogs of course
Pulpo on the grill
A beautiful table
OMG fish!
Taco Runners learn about wine

Our insurance prohibits us from moving south of Ensenada until November 1, due to hurricane season concerns.  As such, we were able to enjoy a bit of Dia de Los Muertos in Ensenada.  Kevin, Zoe, Max and I were walking on the Malecon on the morning of November 1 and were treated to a concert, costumed teenagers handing out candy, and displays of marigolds and artwork.  I only wish we had been able to spend more time in town for the holiday, but we were ready to march onward.

Scott and Kevin holding up the sign
In the Cruiseport Village office (where we moved from Marina Coral)
Wandering Ensenada’s Malecon
Scott and Kevin at Hussongs, the oldest cantina on the Baja
We buy a ridiculous amount of limes.  It was time for more obviously.
Public art in Ensenada
Massive, massive, massive Mexican flag over downtown Ensenada
Teenagers dressed for Dia de los Muertos, with candy of course!


I love the designs in the gates
More lunch with Scott and Abby!

We left Ensenada in the afternoon of November 1, with an overnight passage to San Quintin, where we would arrive just after daylight.  We try to arrange passages to always arrive (and leave when possible) in daylight. Sometimes the distance of these journeys at this time of the year requires an overnight.  We will have a few of those on this trip.  The overnight passage was pretty remarkable actually – it was almost flat calm with a light breeze and millions of stars.  Elaine, on Partida, has a knack for seeing shooting stars.  I didn’t see one during my watch!  We did have lots of fun chatter all night on the VHF radio, keeping us all entertained and awake. When Kevin and I are running the boat with just the two of us, we loosely split the night.  We split the afternoon/evening and run the boat until dinner, we eat, and then I go to bed until Kevin wakes me up around midnight.  I then take the next four hours from midnight to 4 am.  Ish.  Kevin then takes the dawn shift which he likes as he loves to see the sun come up.  We have breakfast together and get ready for the day’s run.

Igloo leaving Ensenada
Partida leaving Ensenada
Epoch leaving Ensenada
Noodle running


As we arrived at San Quintin at about 8 am, this process was shorter.  I woke up at 7 am to see Kevin running around with all of the doors open, the stereo blasting and our big lensed camera in his hand, snapping photos as fast as he could.  And with good reason. It was beautiful.  A pink sky, a brown, gold, red and tan desert landscape and dark aqua blue water.  We all anchored and settled in to look around.



With two dogs on board, our first order of business is always to drop the dinghy and take Zoe (and Max) to shore.  Max is a master of the potty patch but Zoe much prefers to go to see land.  On this day we would be taking our new baby dinghy to the beach as there were breaking waves.  Not huge waves, but breaking nonetheless.  Our big dinghy is a 13 foot AB RIB with a fiberglass bottom and a 50 hp engine.  It weighs around 750 lbs.  We can’t pick it up and move it on the beach.  Not at all.  So with breaking waves it would get pounded.  As would we.  In January at the Seattle Boat Show, we purchased our “shore landing craft” – an 8 foot Achilles inflatable with an electric Torqueedo engine on it.  Zoom zoom!  The entire set up weighs under 100 lbs.  We can lift that pretty easily together.

Note Zoe knows what is going to happen…cruising in our little dinghy

Well, we had tried the baby dinghy around the marina in Seattle, but we had not yet taken it out in waves, nor had we attempted a beach landing.  No time like the present!  We put on quick-drying clothes, loaded up our dry bag with a towel and our phones, and got into the little dinghy.  Zoe looked at us with uncertain eyes. Max had his life jacket on and as usual, was pretty oblivious to what might occur.  We tried to pick a low swell spot on the beach, and waited for a smaller set of waves.  And we went for it!  Just then we looked back to see a larger breaking wave.  Uh oh.  I said, oh, we can ride it in.  No such luck. Kevin toppled out one side, Max and I flipped off the other side, and Zoe firmly planted all four feet into the edges of the dinghy and stayed upright and on the boat.  When I came up from underwater, still holding Max and hoping he had closed his mouth, Zoe looked down at me like, “You see, silly human?  This was not a good idea.”  And then she jumped off of the dinghy and ran around happily on the beach, investigating the sand dunes, running in and out of the water and smiling a great big dog grin.  Max shook off his wet self and joined her in the beach run.  No harm no foul.  Kevin and I were drenched and we had a good laugh while we drained a bunch of water out of the dinghy and set about restoring order. An hour and a half later we were dry and it was time to try a beach departure.  Zoe didn’t love the idea of getting back in this little boat, but she did it.  We put the dogs in and stood in the water on both sides of the dinghy, waiting for the right moment.  When we sensed that we could make it off the beach we did a running start, hopping in the dinghy and gunning the electric motor while holding onto the dogs.  The first wave broke over my head (and Zoe and Max’s), filled the bottom of the dinghy with 3-4 inches of water, but we motored on.  The little boat rose up and over the next wave and we were home free (but wet).  High fives all around and more skeptical looks from a wet Zoe.  To be fair, she was wet before she got in!

Zoe the Beach Dog

Back at the mothership, we saw a panga approach Gitana, and some sort of exchange going on.  Binoculars and a VHF radio conversation confirmed that the pangueros were selling lobster (langosta). The panga left Gitana and approached Red Rover.  “Olah Amiga!  Buenos Tardes! Langosta?  Quattro Langosta – $10 USD or $200 pesos?”  SI SI SI!  They met Zoe and Max, oohed and ahhed over Max being a “Perro Mexicano” and left four lobsters lighter, wishing us “bien viaje a Cabo San Lucas.” Now that was fun!  We Googled (amazingly we had cell service) a recipe for Pacific spiny lobster and put away the hamburgers that were defrosting for dinner.

Max wants to know what those are!
Lobster prep
And grilling
And delicious!

In the afternoon we put the big dinghy down to explore the coastline on the inside of the point, thinking we might have better luck with a beach landing.  Thankfully we did!  A gorgeous, deserted beach with no swell greeted us and created great fun for the dogs.  With everyone worn out, we headed home to Red and to our lucky lobster.  We boiled it until it was partially cooked, cut off the heads and split the tails down the center, followed by a dunk in marinade.  At nightfall we grilled the lobster tails, made a salad and some margaritas and blissed out.

Life is good in Mexico.

12 thoughts on “It’s getting warmer! San Diego and Mexico!! Part I – Ensenada and San Quintin

    1. Hi Kelly! Now you two are pretty serious adventurers! Hoping to see you guys in January. We will be in Barra de Navidad for the first half. Come down and visit from Bucerias!

  1. Thanks for the update. It is great following your adventures.
    After your first shore landing in the small dingy, did you alter your approach for next time. It looks quite small in the picture.

    1. Thanks Dean! It is quite small. Eight or eight and a half feet. We have changed our approach. One – look for beaches with smaller waves! Two – stick one leg each in the water as we approach and jump out earlier. Three – let the big dog jump out much earlier. So far so good! Now to test it on a little bigger swell!

    1. Hi Sam!! It was fun! And it was great to have you along. Pretty cool that all three of the Slowboat crew participated in various legs of this journey. 🙂 We saw Vince and Linda last night here in PV. So the fun continues!

Leave a Reply to Sam LandsmanCancel reply