Internet Newsletter

From The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada

December 2003

Volume 1, Number 3

 

 

A true traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arrival®

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE GRAY WHALE

  With the onset of the southern migration of the gray whale passing the Ensenada area, we present below a short primer on this magnificent sea creature. As a Captain, I have conducted many whale watching boat tours and am quite familiar with these fascinating, awesome, barnacle encrusted mammals otherwise known as Eschrichtius robustus in Latin and ballena in Spanish.

   Gray whales are the most frequently observed large whale along the west coast of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mature gray whales measure between 35 to 45 feet in length and weigh as many tons. Gray whales belong to a group of whales known as baleen or Mysiceti (from Latin for mustache) whales. They are characterized by their large size, two blowholes, and baleen instead of teeth. Baleen is made of the same substance as hair and horns. Plates of baleen hang down in two rows from the top of the whale’s upper jaw. They act like a filter to catch the food. When a baleen whale takes a mouthful of food and water, it uses its tongue to squeeze out in the water through the baleen. The food remains caught on the baleen inside.

    From June to October, the gray whales feed and grow fat in the shallow waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas west of the State of Alaska. This summer feeding must provide energy for the rest of the year. Plowing through the soft sand and mud bottom with their snouts, they stir up clouds of small shrimp-like amphipods, which they strain from the turbid water with their short, fringed baleen plates. Euphausid krill and spawning squid provide additional blubber reserves. The shortened days and declining food supply water of autumn finally signal the start of the gray whale’s journey south. Traveling in a single file or in small groups they swim night and day at a speed of 4 to 6 mph usually taking two to three months to cover the 5,000 to 6,000 miles. We have found ourselves following a football field size group of grays during one of our past whale watching expeditions. Bottom contours, ocean currents, prominent visual landmarks and even the “taste” of inflowing water from river and bays all act as navigation aids. By late December-early January the first whales reach the lagoons of Baja. The first to arrive are the pregnant females, then the mature breeding adults, and finally the yearlings and immature animals. Often the pregnant females arrive within days or hours of giving birth to their calves.

  The 15ft. calves born love the warm salty water in the Baja lagoons.  Sexual maturity in gray whales is reached at about eight years. Males may mate every year, but females are on an every other year cycle-mating one year, giving birth the next, and then mating again the following year. The calves are born between December and February, usually in the quiet innermost reaches of the lagoons. Measuring fourteen to sixteen feet at birth, they nurse on their mother’s rich milk (50 percent fat) and grow rapidly. Buoyed up by the warm salty water, they practice swimming and diving around the usually resting form of their mother, sheltered from the rough seas as well as from the predatory sharks and killer whales. By early March the males have left the lagoons to start north. By mid-April the mothers and calves (the latter now well padded with blubber) will also begin their long to 2½ month trip back to the arctic.

  The main nursery area is Scammon’s Lagoon 270 miles south of Ensenada as the crow flies, which covers some 250 square miles.  Lower down the coast is the second main lagoon, San Ignacio, where most of the whale watching trips are located. Magdalena Bay was a most important whaling spot in the old days, but now only some ten percent of it is utilized by the whales.  Some whales venture as far as Cabo San Lucas and even a small number have been seen inside the Sea of Cortez.

  In 1885 whalers discovered the Baja calving lagoons.  Some captains managed to sail their ships through the shallows, others entered the lagoons in small boats.  These lagoons were especially well suited to the whaler’s purpose because of the narrow channels separated by sand bars.  The men could stand on the sand bars and harpoon the whales as they swam through the channels.  This method of killing whales was much safer for the men, but it was disastrous for the whales.  In fact by 1900, it was no longer profitable to find and kill the gray whale because there were so few. With the invention of the harpoon gun and faster ships, whalers moved to the arctic region and killed nearly 2 million of the swift, deep water whales: blues, fins, and humpbacks.  During this time, the gray whale population increased enough so that by 1924, the whalers returned, and the number of grays was severely reduced once again.  Finally, in 1937, the gray whale was given partial protection, and in 1947, the International Whaling Commission gave them full protection.  Since then the population has increased to an estimated 12,000 to 17,000 and many scientists believe that it has stabilized.  The greatest threat to the gray whale today is loss of habitat.  Unexplored oil reserves lie beneath their northern feeding grounds and their southern calving lagoons.  Pollution of these areas, or the waters through which they migrate, or commercial development of the Baja lagoons could do serious harm the species. The survival of the gray whale will ultimately depend on human priorities.

  Here are a few facts about the swimming and diving behavior of the whale during migration.  When a whale comes to the surface, there is a blow or spout.  It is a double-plumed, misty jet of vapor up to 10ft. high and can often be seen against the horizon.  The blow is not a fountain of water, but a mist that condenses from the warm moist air as it is exhaled under high pressure from the lungs. Gray whales have a rhythmic breathing pattern.  Normally they will make three to five short, shallow dives of less than a mile a minute each, and then a long, deep dive.  This repeated breathing pattern enables the whales to store up oxygen and get rid of the carbon dioxide built up during a long dive.  A general rule is one short dive and blow for every minute spent in a deep dive.  When the flukes come out of the water, it usually signals a deep dive. The short exhaling dives are between one to two minutes in length and the long dive is five to eight minutes and covers approximately three to 400 yards.  Again, the whale travels at between four and six knots and should be followed and at exactly the same speed. If you are observing the gray whale on your boat, do not approach the whale within 100 yards or converge or cross his course, causing the whale to change his course do to your interference. Power boats with big kickers should motor quietly and sail boats with little kickers (who are always quiet) should motor under main sail only. Absolutely nothing compares to the spiritual experience of tracking and following the silent progression of the gray whale. Your children will love this communion with the whales and your inner child will thank you for the adventure.

  EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS WHILE TRUE TRAVELING IN BAJA

  If you are carrying a cell phone and need vehicle roadside help during your True Travels to Ensenada you are encouraged to dial 01-520-800-990-3900, if you need crime prevention help dial 01-520-800-440-3690. These numbers updated 12-30-2007. There are also phones along the way on the Toll Road at various distances that will connect you directly to the Green Angels green emergency service trucks.

 

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  Winning is like shaving, if you quit, everybody thinks you are a bum.

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  A NEW MARINA CORAL FEATURE

  If you’re at the Marina Coral and suddenly feel remote from the rest of the world, the Internet is now just a mouse click and US $5 dollars for any 24 hour a day length of time. From 12:01 midnight to 11:59 before midnight that night you can sign on and off as often as you like or just stay connected for a mere five bucks! To arrange the details, see the hotel front desk and they will assign you a password and username and open the connection to your slip phone plug to Telnor, the local phone company. It may be slow at 52 Kbps, but the connection is very reliable... When I arrived here 5 years ago, the internet was free. Stealthily the Marina posted flyers, without my knowledge, and started charging 28 cents a minute. One rainy cold April day I ran up a bill of over a hundred dollars doodling around on the Internet!!! Luckily I was given a refund, but had not been on the Internet at my boat in Mexico for 4 1/2 years until this new feature debuted recently. As I posted this new Newsletter and a bunch of new photos on the Photo Album page, I stayed on all day long and not once was bumped off; how refreshing to experience a good phone connection to the Internet on these remote boat docks serviced by all those little long and venerable lines subject to the marine environs! I'm stoked!!! 

(SEE OUR NOVEMBER 2005 NEWSLETTER FOR AN UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSING THE AVAILABILITY OF NEW WIRELESS INTERNET IN ENSENADA)

CLOUD WATCHING

  As I posted new photos today on my Photo Album page, I was reminded of my days spent in Seattle when I could pick out a cloud on the horizon and watch it for 2 hours until it lazily passed over my location. As you travel south from the rank air that covers Southern California, you will leave the smog between south of Puerto Nuevo, Punta Salsipuedes or Punta San Miguel. If there is no air inversion which will trap the bad air that Ensenada creates daily, the atmosphere here is surprisingly pristine. Yes, cloud watching is enabled here and is strongly suggested to help you anti-stress while away from your normal smog shrouded lifestyle. 

    COAST TO COAST BY FREIGHTER

  In November we met the owners of two catamarans that arrived the previous day at the same time in the mid-afternoon. Assuming they were buddy boating, I asked them how was their passage and from where did they travel to Mexico. They were both on boats from Florida, but only traveled 2 miles to arrive here yesterday!!! The boats were delivered after a 2 1/2 week trip by freighter from Florida by a freight line that specializes in boat deliveries through the Panama Canal . One of the boats, a 45 foot cat, was ferried here for only US $13K and traveled on her own hulls! This is so much less expensive in money, time, wear and tear, and the experience of committing your boat to an unknown Captain of questionable qualification and credentials. If you are joining the 90 Day Yacht Club with a boat from Florida, this may be an option you will want to explore.

  THE PRICE IS RIGHT

  Mexican TV can be very entertaining. Versions of many games shows can be found complete with the same set and format with the host waving arms at prizes speaking Spanish and mimicking Bob Barker. One evening I was channel surfing and found the Mexican version of the Price is Right. Contestants from the audience encouraged to "come on down" in Spanish, while jumping up and down and in and out of the host's arms.

  As the show wound down to the big prize package segment, the curtain went up to unveil an old style VW bug, say maybe a 1973 vintage super-beetle. I didn't quite understand the Spanish commentary and commented to my friends that they were giving away a used car. Later we had a good laugh when we discovered the old style VW Beetle is still in production and sold new at local Mexican car dealers. They are one of the least expensive new cars available in Mexico. One mile from Marina Coral on Highway 1, you will find an agency that will provide you with a test drive and the chance to find out if the price is right on your new nostalgic VW bug.*

  *The production of the old style beetle in Mexico was discontinued in mid-2003

  THE BEST SUB SHOP IN ENSENADA  

  Directly across the street form La Baguette (#49 on our site map) we have discovered the best sub sandwich shop we have found in Ensenada called the Subfactory. The servings are generous and won’t break your ceramic peso piggy banco!

(Unfortunately this little sub store and La Baguette are both now closed, see our more current Newsletters for restaurants that will replace these restaurants in our coming new printing of our books).

 

 

  THE PUNTA MORRO VIEWPOINT

  If you would like a walk with new horizons, take a look around the little point just west of Marina Coral. Stroll along the oceanside cliffs in front of the King Coronita Trailer Park and continue on in front of the University, and you will find yourself at the old and new lighthouses of Punta Morro. Rounding this point you will discover a whole new perspective of the Ensenada area. Looking NW you will see Punta San Miguel in the distance, and walking a little farther will find you at a fancy seaside hotel and the cliff hanger Punta Morro Restaurant. There is a little walkway that bridges to a huge rock that has a deck with a picnic table, lounge chairs, and an unbelievable buena vista of the Bahia Todos Santos.

Click on these photos and the following photo in this newsletter and use your web browser back button to return to this page

Punta Morro.jpg (323361 bytes)Punta Morro Perch.jpg (283206 bytes)Seaside Perch.jpg (289882 bytes)Punta Morro Restaurant.jpg (242677 bytes)

  _______________

 An entrepreneur works 18 hours a day to avoid working for someone else for 8 hours a day.

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  INVESTING IN YOUR FUTURE IN MEXICO

  During our travels in Mexico, we have noticed a common feature of the panorama that defines the backdrop of your memorable Ensenada experience. In the most scenic and strategic areas of the hills and beachside communities you will see while cruising on your new yacht, or traveling through and visiting by car, there exists an alarming number of unfinished structures. Whether it is a villa on the seaside cliffs, a hacienda at the riverfront, or the estate by the lake, they are left to crumble as the local animal and rodent population lay claim to the empty multi-room, wind swept abodes.

  In the future, the narrowing bridge between our two bordering countries should make these unfinished projects more available to those wishing to own and occupy these properties and see them complete in their as yet unrealized potential beauty and refuge from the struggling toils of the overpopulated California lifestyle. Enlightened generations from the north would be wise to find this short drive south a welcome relief, and an opportunity to forge a new self-realization of tranquility and the resultant renewal of spirit necessary for the survival of our race.

  ONE OF THOSE MAGIC MORNINGS

  Today a truly special event was experienced. Absolute silence!!! I awoke to the deafening sound of no sound. No seagulls roaming the docks signaling each other like marina barnyard roosters. No surge or movement of any kind in the waters surrounding my boat, causing the lines to moan as they are stretched, the docks to creak, or my friend Chubaca, the board that surrounds the cement dock pole at my stern, to erupt with his unintelligible Star Wars speak. The traces of the fishing boat that awoke me yesterday with diesels roaring and smoke filling my hatches are gone; thankfully they left and never returned. There is no breeze rattling my rigging and flapping my Navy Yacht Club burgee. I hear no road noise from the highway passing by Marina Coral as I roll over and switch on the radio to get a weather report on KNX 1070 AM, Los Angeles, accompanied by a traffic report telling me of the clogged freeways that I thankfully escaped in my move to Ensenada… I turn off the radio and try to milk the moment, but as 8 bells toll on my ship’s clock, the spell is broken and my coffee maker beacons me to arise and write you this short note. All the while, the silence lingers into this clear, sun filled, Ensenada Mexican magic morning. Gracious Jesus!

  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

True Traveler Publishing

P.O. Box 60023

San Diego, CA 92166

 

Phone:

(619) 857-0368

 

E-mail:

sitka@truetraveler.com

 

We’re on the Web!

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Capitania de Puerto.jpg (283286 bytes)

Ing. Mn. Helios A. Gallego Sablo

Jefe de Senalamiento Maritimo

Officer Sablo is in charge of 

all the lighthouses in Baja California

 

Please e-mail us with your experiences, good or bad, using our books on our feedback page. Thank you for purchasing our books and we wish you many safe and happy True Travels.

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