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From The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada

March 2004

Volume 2, Number 3



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









 How Scammon’s Lagoon was Discovered

            In 1885 whalers discovered the Baja calving lagoons of the gray whale. One of these lagoons, Scammon’s Lagoon, is so named after Charles M. Scammon, who discovered this whaling Mecca and for a period of time had the entire area as his own private whaling ground. There is some conflict among authorities as to how Scammon discovered the lagoon. Not surprising, as most facts about whales and whale hunting are in wide dispute among whale authorities. One account has Scammon befriending a Chinese sailor in Honolulu who had been exploring the coast of Baja in his Chinese junk. He offered to guide Scammon to a veritable whale hunting paradise he had discovered during his travels. Another more popular and colorful account is Scammon’s discovery of the “desert whale”.

          Scammon had traveled the coast of the Baja many times in search of a large congregation of whales. He had observed many clues as to the existence of an area that concealed the whales, as they seemed to disappear as they migrated south every year in the late fall and winter. The entrance to this undiscovered area, now known as Scammon’s Lagoon, was cleverly camouflaged and undetected by the ships as they passed to seaward. The lagoon entrance is a small passage through low-lying sand dunes and many ships sailed by without realizing the entrance existed.

         An alert lookout at the top of the mast signaled the crew of Scammon’s ship that he had seen the spouts of several whales in the rolling sand hills of this remote desert as they passed on the lagoon’s adjacent seas. The fact that whales do not spout on dry land aroused the whaler’s suspicion and soon two whale boats were lowered to explore the shore more closely. Scammon dispatched the smaller of his two ships to follow the whale boats. Two days and nights later word was returned saying an entrance to a lagoon had been located and the ship had entered it through dangerous surf and across an equally dangerous shallow sand bar. After some maneuvering, Scammon got his large ship into the lagoon and the men began to ready themselves for the whale harvest. It was not an easy task as the whales resisted, viciously attacking the men when cornered and were christened the name “devil fish” by the perusing whalers. They were in a virtual whaling paradise with whales blowing around them in all directions, but half of the crews were injured and many of the small boats stove in, and the whales were getting more wary and smarter in their defense, ready for an attack when a boat came within their range. The men devised the use of guns firing a “bomb-lance” (designed to explode after they entered the whale) into the whales as they swam past the sandbars. This turned the tide in this uneven battle and Scammon’s ships were soon ready to sail with full cargos of highly valued whale oil and whalebone. It took twelve days for the crews to experience the right conditions of wind and tide to get their now heavily laden boats across the shallow sand bars and to the open sea.

         When Scammon’s ships returned to port loaded to capacity, much speculation was aroused in the whaling fleet. Scammon had enlisted his crew to be paid on a share basis and they were all sworn to secrecy. As a result, the discovery of Scammon’s Lagoon remained a closely guarded secret. In those days many whaling voyages lasted 4 or 5 years, as the ships did not return to port until the vessel was full. The fact that Scammon returned within a few weeks with full boats even furthered the speculation, and after 2 more successful trips, the whaling fleet followed Scammon from port in an effort to find out how he was filling his quota so fast and efficiently.

          During the day Scammon would keep in sight of the fleet, but at night he would double back, twist his course, and by daybreak be out of sight of the fleet. By this method he the eluded his pursuers, entered Scammon’s Lagoon without detection, and began whaling. A few days later, a lookout on a ship cruising off Cedros Island detected the scent of drying whale blubber. The ship followed the scent and was soon confronted by the sight of the spars of Scammon’s ship in the middle of the desert surrounded by whale spouts. Thus came an end to the secret existence of Scammon’s Lagoon, which ushered in the genocide of the gray whale.

        As a result of this opening of Scammon’s Lagoon to the whaling fleet, 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 it 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 effective writer gives the reader the most amount of information in the least amount of time.




            The gas offered for sale in Mexico is now cheaper than in the southwest United States! Yesterday (3-2-2004) we bought gas in Tijuana that was $2.02 per gallon while the current average in San Diego is over $2.20, reportedly the highest in the US. The fuel is sold in quantity by the liter. One gallon is 3.78 liters so multiply the cost of a liter by 4 and you will have the approximate cost per gallon. The cost is not governed by the behind the scenes price fixing that we are subjected to in the states. Pricing varies every first of the month by a factor of plus or minus 0.5%. So, unless laws are changes governing fuel pricing, fuel prices will remain stable in Mexico and you may want to fuel while you are there. There are usually two kinds of gas; an unleaded fuel called magna in green handled pumps and a premium unleaded fuel in red handled pumps. Magna seems to have an octane rating of around 86, so expect a lot of pinging. The quality of the fuel has been questioned by some who use the magna grade, so we advise you buy the higher grade fuel called premium. Diesel is carried at most stations, which contains a high sulfur content, making changing your oil more often advisable if you use a lot of Mexican diesel fuel. The operative word here is Pemex. This is the abbreviation for Petróleos Mexicanos. The only gas stations you will find in Mexico are going to be Pemex, easily distinguished by the large green signs. This national oil company is responsible for everything from exploration to pumping the gas in your car.  

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          When entering Mexico you must have two flags flying. This is customary as a courtesy to the country you are entering and recognized by international law. The placement of these flags is not important, but an American Stars & Stripes and the Mexican green, white, and red must be displayed. They should be approximately the same size as having a huge U.S. flag and small Mexican flag is considered bad etiquette. Once settled in Marina Coral these flags may be stowed away. Marina Coral is like a little country, separated by the excellent security and secluded location. If you are docked in the main port of Ensenada, it is recommended that you fly both flags. This is because there is more authority and activity in the port. All trips away from the dock from both locations should be accompanied by a display of both flags.

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  (Article updated in the July/August 2006 Newsletter)

            The pop singer that you may associate with her first hit and a band called the Stone Ponies and dating former Governor and now Mayor of Oakland Gerry Brown was raised in Tucson and as a Mexican American by descent recording two excellent record albums (now CDs) celebrating her Hispanic heritage. His habit of singing to the family when she was a child the collection of tunes she flawlessly performs exposed her to the traditional music of Mexico. You will thoroughly enjoy these songs, through the years sung to wile away the long afternoons on the rancheros and in the cantinas of days gone by and still in present day times.

            She writes on the liner notes, “Since I was a young child, I have loved and admired the traditional music of Mexico in all its wondrous diversity. It is said that there are many contradictions in the Mexican culture. Its music is no exception. It is at once the most disciplined and the most hang loose music I have ever attempted. Its Pre-colombian rhythms and subsequent European influences always allow it to shine as distinctly Mexican. The mariachi is in the truest sense a folk orchestra playing the regional music of Jalisco. The influx of German settlers in the north brought with it the accordion and the polkas, waltzes and oom-pah military music so dear to German hearts. The Mexicans engulfed and made it their own. My brothers and I grew up particularly loving the sones and huapangos from the south and trios from Huastecas. We were thrilled when we finally got to record our own versions of these songs we’d admired so long”.

            Linda Ronstadt recorded “Canciones de mi Padre” and was followed with “Mas Canciones” due to the first albums tremendous success. Both are beautifully presented with the words to the songs in both Spanish and English on the CD enclosures. The first album has Linda’s comments prefacing the words to the songs. The incredible range of Linda’s voice is accented by rowdy hooting male companions who also join in with perfectly tuned harmonic choruses. A brass section accompanies strummed and picked guitars contrasting the velvet violins which together celebrate the emotion shared on “Mi Ranchito”. Mix in a harp, harmonica, flutes, a tuba, percussions, and the vihuela (a 5 string guitar) and you have your entire happy hour filled with music characteristic of the country you are visiting. These songs will remain a great keepsake continually calling you back to visit Mexico again.

            Some of these songs date back to the turn of the 19th century. The first album was recorded by Asylum/Electra Records in 1987 and is referenced by #60765-2. The second was an Electra product #61239-2 dated 1991.  






            New boats arrive everyday and I am happy to help the folks that are new to the marina arrange their dock lines. As reported, yes there is a fairly heavy surge in the Coral Marina that keeps the boats in motion during ocean swells caused by northern and southern storm activity sending waves to travel over great distances to reach the Bahia Todos Santos. Fenders are your line of protection against your hull needlessly bashing the dock as the water rises and falls when these swells curve around and enter the Coral Marina. We advise the employment of an outboard spring line to keep the boat from blowing out those expensive fifty-dollar fenders. Tie this outboard line as taught as possible to keep your yacht from crashing the dock and blowing out your rubber boat bumpers. Be aware that Taylor Made fenders have the same lifetime warranty as Craftsman tools, and your favorite major marine stores will usually give you a brand new one if yours blows out. As you equip the boat for your trip south, be sure you have at least three lines long enough to reach from your boats beam cleats to the fore and aft dock cleats. Also bring chafing gear to cover your lines at attachment and wear points. Old water hose, inexpensive new clear hose from Home Depot, or used fire hose bought at the downtown firehouse surplus store are perfect chafing gear. Be sure to use ty-wraps or sewed thread through the rode to keep the chafing sleeves in place as the lines work on the cleats and lying against your boats hull. In the downtown Ensenada Harbor passing boats cruising the harbor cause additional surge. In the Cruiseport Marina, the water is usually very calm due to the insulation effected by the double jetty enclosure. If you can afford to, always buy rode that is one diameter size bigger than prescribed by the manufacturer for your trip south to the 90 Day Yacht Club. This is especially true in the winter months when wave action is a greater factor. Also, longer lines are advised for throwing to dock personnel as your yacht arrives. These longer lines can then be doubled back to the boat to give you an extra measure of safety and strength. Have a safe passage and a happy uneventful landing!



            One of the perks of writing my books is that I receive a lot of trade from Ensenada businesses that are featured in my books. I recently purchased a 1999 Nissan Pathfinder and the new truck was in need of a detail and wash.  I turned to Taurus Auto Detallado which is listed as business #30 on our site map because they had done a great job on my VW van at a very reasonable price. Before I new what was happening, the tools were out and all the seats and carpeting were stripped out of the truck! This left an empty shell which was vigorously, but carefully scrubbed for the next 4 hours. All removed parts were cleaned separately. Meanwhile the engine was restored to its original factory showroom appearance. The exterior was attended to just as fastidiously. The alloy wheels, wheel wells, and even the spare tire suspended in the rear under the body were cleaned and treated to a coat of an amoral type fluid. After all was reinstalled and I was driving back to the marina I had a vehicle that felt and looked like new! All this for much less that US $200! Dr. Rico (#19 on our site map) is a dentist I rely on for dental care. His office is ½ block from the detail shop and he happened to walk by as my truck was being cleaned. After a short discussion about the success of my book, he said to come by and I would be given a free teeth cleaning! This is the dentist that only charged me US $350 each for two bridges that today are working perfectly! Next time you decide to clean your vehicle, remember this convenient stop for both car care and teeth care near the Park Revolution (#9 on our site map) in Ensenada.


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