Internet Newsletter

From The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada

January 2005

Volume 3 , Number 1



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







  It’s whale-watching season again!

See our articles in the December 2003 and March 2004 Newsletters about whale lore.





            The terrible calamity and power caused by a Tsunami was illustrated in southern Asian this past week. We will never know how many people were lost and how many lives were changed by that momentous event the morning of December 26th. With absolutely no warning an 8.9 earthquake caused a 30-foot wave to envelope whole landmasses and reportedly moved an entire island 100 feet. During a recent trip to Seattle to promote and distribute my books, I was struck by the many “Tsunami Evacuation Route” signs along the roads of the Washington State coast. Not having seen such attention to the subject of potential tsunami damage in the lower left California coastal region, my interest was piqued as to just what these fabled waves are, how they are formed, how we should expect to be warned and what is the proper behavior for those that are threatened. My conclusion is this, take whatever you can that’s most important and hit the road running away from the coast! I have often thought that you would kick the boat away from the dock and haul bacon for deep water, but the following information I discovered through research has me believing that may be a foolhardy act. If you could reach deeper water quickly enough, one would have to punch through a wave of undetermined height and strength and hope the boat did not break falling off the other side. And, there could be a series of waves of undetermined period, height, and direction making the voyage a daunting and dangerous task. I have heard that usually in a marina the water drains to extreme low tide or perhaps no water at all and then rushes back in with incredible force and fury. That would be something we all would not hope for and quite destructive, and as I sit here at the Coral Marina writing this article, I realize a wave of perhaps 30 meters (90 feet!) could jump our little jetty enclosure and inundate everything to within hundreds of meters of the coast. Ahrggg matey!!! The best “Tsunami Evacuation Route” heading out of Ensenada would be Highway 3 just NW of El Sauzal which leads to Tecate and scales several high ridges within a few miles of the Bahia de Todos Santos coast. If you had little or no warning, the ridge on which the University resides just northwest of Punto Morro and the Marina Coral would be the closest escape route to elevate yourself from the approaching wave and associated tidal surge.

            Tsunami is a Japanese word with the English translation, "harbor wave." Represented by two characters, the top character, "tsu," means harbor, while the bottom character, "nami," means "wave." In the past, tsunamis were sometimes referred to as "tidal waves" by the general public, and as "seismic sea waves" by the scientific community. The term "tidal wave" is a misnomer; although a tsunami's impact upon a coastline is dependent upon the tidal level at the time a tsunami strikes, tsunamis are unrelated to the tides. Tides result from the imbalanced, extraterrestrial, gravitational influences of the moon, sun, and planets. The term "seismic sea wave" is also misleading. "Seismic" implies an earthquake-related generation mechanism, but a tsunami can also be caused by a nonseismic event, such as a landslide or meteorite impact.

            As a tsunami leaves the deep water of the open ocean and travels into the shallower water near the coast, it transforms. Scientists have discovered that a tsunami travels at a speed that is related to the water depth - hence, as the water depth decreases, the tsunami slows. The tsunami's energy flux, which is dependent on both its wave speed and wave height, remains nearly constant. Consequently, as the tsunami's speed diminishes as it travels into shallower water, its height grows. Because of this shoaling effect, a tsunami, imperceptible at sea, may grow to be several meters or more in height near the coast. When it finally reaches the coast, a tsunami may appear as a rapidly rising or falling tide, a series of breaking waves, or even a bore. As a tsunami approaches shore, it begins to slow and grow in height. Just like other water waves, tsunamis begin to lose energy as they rush onshore - part of the wave energy is reflected offshore, while the shoreward-propagating wave energy is dissipated through bottom friction and turbulence. Despite these losses, tsunamis still reach the coast with tremendous amounts of energy. Tsunamis have great erosional potential, stripping beaches of sand that may have taken years to accumulate and undermining trees and other coastal vegetation. Capable of inundating, or flooding, hundreds of meters inland past the typical high-water level, the fast-moving water associated with the inundating tsunami can crush homes and other coastal structures. Tsunamis may reach a maximum vertical height onshore above sea level, often called a runup height, of 10, 20, and even 30 meters.

            Tsunamis are unlike wind-generated waves, which we observe on a local lake or at a coastal beach, in that they are characterized as shallow-water waves, with long periods and wavelengths. The wind-generated swell one sees at a California beach, for example, spawned by a storm out in the Pacific and rhythmically rolling in, one wave after another, might have a period of about 10 seconds and a wave length of 150 m. A tsunami, on the other hand, can have a wavelength in excess of 100 km and period on the order of one hour. As a result of their long wavelengths, tsunamis behave as shallow-water waves. A wave becomes a shallow-water wave when the ratio between the water depth and its wavelength gets very small. Shallow-water waves move at a speed that is equal to the square root of the product of the acceleration of gravity (9.8 m/s/s) and the water depth – as a result: in the Pacific Ocean, where the typical water depth is about 4000 m, a tsunami travels at about 200 m/s (600 feet per second), or over 700 km/hr (430 miles per hour). Because the rate at which a wave loses its energy is inversely related to its wavelength, tsunamis not only propagate at high speeds, they can also travel great, transoceanic distances with limited energy losses.

            Tsunamis can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water. Tectonic earthquakes are a particular kind of earthquake that are associated with the earth's crustal deformation; when these earthquakes occur beneath the sea, the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position. Waves are formed as the displaced water mass, which acts under the influence of gravity, attempts to regain its equilibrium. When large areas of the sea floor elevate or subside, a tsunami can be created. Large vertical movements of the earth's crust can occur at plate boundaries. Plates interact along these boundaries called faults. Around the margins of the Pacific Ocean, for example, denser oceanic plates slip under continental plates in a process known as subduction. Subduction earthquakes are particularly effective in generating tsunamis.

            A tsunami can be generated by any disturbance that displaces a large water mass from its equilibrium position. In the case of earthquake-generated tsunamis, the water column is disturbed by the uplift or subsidence of the sea floor. Submarine landslides, which often accompany large earthquakes, as well as collapses of volcanic edifices, can also disturb the overlying water column as sediment and rock slump down slope and are redistributed across the sea floor. Similarly, a violent submarine volcanic eruption can create an impulsive force that uplifts the water column and generates a tsunami. Conversely, super marine landslides and cosmic-body impacts disturb the water from above, as momentum from falling debris is transferred to the water into which the debris falls. Generally speaking, tsunamis generated from these mechanisms, unlike the Pacific-wide tsunamis caused by some earthquakes, dissipate quickly and rarely affect coastlines distant from the source area.

            The Tsunami Warning System (TWS) in the Pacific, comprised of 26 participating international member states, has the functions of monitoring seismological and tidal stations throughout the Pacific Basin to evaluate potentially tsunamigenic earthquakes and disseminating tsunami warning information. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) is the operational center of the Pacific TWS. Located near Honolulu, Hawaii, PTWC provides tsunami warning information to national authorities in the Pacific Basin. The objective of the PTWS is to detect, locate, and determine the magnitude of potentially tsunamigenic earthquakes occurring in the Pacific Basin or its immediate margins. Tsunami watch, warning, and information bulletins are disseminated to appropriate emergency officials and the general public by a variety of communication methods. The NOAA Weather Radio System, based on a large number of VHF transmitter sites, provides direct broadcast of tsunami information to the public. The US Coast Guard also broadcasts urgent marine warnings and related tsunami information to coastal users equipped with medium frequency (MF) and very high frequency (VHF) marine radios. Local authorities and emergency managers are responsible for formulating and executing evacuation plans for areas under a tsunami warning. The public should stay-tuned to the local media for evacuation orders should a tsunami warning be issued. And, the public should NOT RETURN to low-lying areas until the tsunami threat has passed and the "all clear" is announced by the local authorities.

           The image used at the top of this article is adapted from a wood-block print, the Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa, by Hokusai, a famous late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Japanese artist. Part of The Thirty-Six Views of Fuji series (1823-29), this print, although often used as a graphic in tsunami literature, is somewhat misleading in that context because tsunamis do not always manifest themselves as the huge breaking waves depicted in the print.

            On March 28, 1964, at 03:28 GMT, an earthquake occurred in Prince William Sound of Alaska triggering a Pacific-wide tsunami. The earthquake had a surface-wave magnitude of 8.4, an epicenter of 61.1° N, 147.5° W, and a depth of 70 feet. The earthquake, local tsunamis due to landslides, and the regional tsunami were responsible for taking the lives of more than 122 people and causing over $106 million in damage.

[Link to Image]       The Surge Wave left a 2 x 12 in. (5.2 x 31 cm) plank in a truck tire at Whittier, Alaska. Whittier incurred $10 million in property damage. One of the waves, probably the same one that caused the major damage in Whittier, reached a height of 31.7 m (more than 93 feet) above low tide. At Whittier the waves destroyed two saw mills; the Union Oil Company tank farm, wharf and buildings; the Alaska Railroad depot; numerous frame dwellings; and the railroad ramp handling towers at the army pier. They also caused great damage to the small boat harbor. The tsunami killed thirteen people at Whittier, then a community of 70 people. Photograph Credit: U.S. Geological Survey.  

Note: this article was expedited from a pre-written April 2005 Newsletter due to the events of this past week. Also, few animals were found deceased as a result of this occurrence and fish were seen to be acting strangely before the event; could we be missing an important segment of their premonitionary existence?



            Next month the days before Lent will be globally celebrated in various parts of the world with the annual party known as Mardi Gras. Normally associated with Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Venice in Italy, New Orleans in the United States, and Mazatlan and Veracruz in Mexico; few on the west coast of the United States are aware of the incredible magnitude of the party Ensenada throws for the city each year in February. This year will be the 87th year that this celebration has graced the streets of Ensenada.

            Culminating with a Gala Ball on Fat Tuesday, the party gets started on “Jueves de Mal Humor” or bad humor day. That evening an effigy representing a large hated figure of bad humor is burned in the local park near Avenida Ruiz and Avenida 5. The next night the same park hosts the royal coronation ceremony with music and food. The king and queen of the Mardi Gras celebration are crowned after being selected from a group of local candidates that have spent the previous month campaigning and raising funds for their candidacy and for the event. After the coronation, the gala is officially declared started by local authorities.

            On Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday in the early afternoon, Boulevard Costero along the port is blocked off for parades of floats and various local marching bands. The “Bandas Sinaloenses”, which are bands imported from the Mexican State of Sinoloa, play the traditional music of carnival featuring brass instruments. These bands stop at various places in the city for the party participants listening and dancing pleasure en route to Avenida Ruiz where the revelry is centered.

            The Gala Ball includes a costume contest with prizes awarded to the most elaborate and ornamental outfits. Meanwhile, the children are given their own parallel celebration at which a ruling little king and queen are selected. They preside over a magnificent children’s Fantasy Ball where more prizes are awarded. The children’s colorful parades and ornamental costumes are frequently thought to surpass those of the adults.

            The celebration is marked by an absence of the malevolent impending possible violence felt at other modern day events. The fun filled and good natured friendly people of Ensenada are the reason for this peaceful easy feeling which is shared by all celebrants involved in the interesting scope of daily party functions. Arrests are minimal and a pleasant time is had by all. Aside from the few that have imbibed a little too liberally, and seem to be having perhaps a little “too much fun”, the festival annually passes without any serious negative results. A great benefit of the fiesta is the funds collected by donors to be given to those less fortunate in the city. Join us February 3rd thru the 8th at the huge Ensenada Carnival Block Party . The theme this year is “Magia y Allegoria” (Magic and Allegory). If possible, try to visit Ensenada during this week and join this little bustling Mexican city celebrating another splendid Mardi Gras!



Unexpected Mammoth Maintenance

            Recently I was turning the key to start my engine and the starter failed to whirl into action. Maybe my battery was flat in spite of my wind and solar chargers, or perhaps I was in gear…or incredibly, I had a mechanical problem regardless of my impeccable preventive maintenance. Upon further inspection, the batteries were fully charged and engine was out of gear. Just in time for Christmas, an occurrence had defeated my best attempts at keeping my sailing vessel Sitka in the best repair possible. Due to an unexpected October rainstorm while I was away doing a yacht delivery, 50 knot winds, a skiff full of water on stern davits, and a failing anti-siphon valve; my engine’s crankshaft was now firmly frozen in place. The upshot of all this rather disconcerting turn of events was that I was fully insured and was mailed a check for Christmas thanks to the quick action of all those involved.

Could some one please develop a way for boat engines to run on seawater, rather than self-destruct when seawater somehow is introduced to the system! The sea had siphoned back through my #3 exhaust valve and had welded my #3 piston to the cylinder wall. Right now during this week before Christmas I have removed the cabinetry, unharnessed the electricals, and am now disconnecting the other systems that keep a diesel engine living. Interestingly, most diesel engines in yachts out live their owners; I’m happy to report this one didn’t live me! Next, the best part of the process, wrestling the 500-pound mammoth out of the boat, and onto a palette and up to the states for rebuild.

I want to thank Overseas Insurance underwriters, Todd and Associated Surveyors, A to Z Marine (all located in San Diego), and Markel Insurance for contributing the ingredients that were necessary to get this process funded and started. Sure, the depreciation and deductible were adjusted in the final amount remunerated, but the true value of having a current and all encompassing insurance policy from a reputable firm was underscored as a result of this loss and resultant award. What is truly amazing is that your machinery is covered in a boat, while if your car engine fails it’s up to you to repair at your cost. But then again, if your car somehow slipped into the ocean and seawater fouled the engine, just maybe your car insurance may cover it, I surmise…




            The first Chinese migrated to Northern Mexico at the turn of the 20th century and signed on as workers for the Colorado River Land Company, which designed and built the extensive irrigation system in the fertile Valle de Mexicali. Some immigrants came overland from America, while others sailed directly from China crossing the Pacific Ocean and up through the Sea of Cortez. As in California, thousands of Chinese coolies were lured to the area by the promise of high wages that never materialized. Today the state capital of Baja, Mexicali, boasts Baja California’s largest Chinese population of an estimated 850,000. Earlier this century, however, Mexicali was numerically and culturally more Chinese than Mexican.

            A 200-meter desert peak near Baja California's Crucero La Trinidad is named El Chinero in memory of a group of 160 Chinese laborers who perished while crossing the San Felipe Desert in search of work in the Valle de Mexicali. As a result, the desert itself was known for a time as El Desierto de los Chinos or the Desert of the Chinese. An unscrupulous boatman landed the group at a fork in the Río Colorado, telling them Mexicali was only a short distance away. Little did they know that sixty-five kilometers of burning desert lay between them and the valley they never reached.

            Most of the Chinese laborers who survived the building of the irrigation system stayed on after its completion. They settled in an area of Mexicali today known as Chinesca or Chinatown. By 1920 Mexicali's Chinos outnumbered the Mexican population 10,000 to 700. During the U.S. Prohibition era, when Americans flooded the Mexican border towns to partake of the alcoholic beverages outlawed at home, Chinese laborers and farmers moved into Mexicali and spent their hard-earned savings to open bars, restaurants, and hotels. Chinesca eventually housed virtually all of the city's casinos and bars, and an underground tunnel system connected bordellos and opium dens with Mexicali's counterpart city on the U.S. side, Calexico. Bootleggers also used this route to supply the U.S. with booze purchased in Mexico. Many of the Mexicali Prohibition era businesses were operated by Chinese. As the city recovered from the post-Prohibition recession, a steady influx of Mexicans diluted the local population until the Chinese once again became a minority.

            In 1927 a series of Tong wars in northern Mexico erupted over control of gambling and prostitution rings. Mexican alarm over the Chinese participation in organized crime led to the government-encouraged Movimiento Anti-Chino in the late 1920s, a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment swept the country and led to the torture and murder of hundreds of Chinese in northern Mexico. The amount of racial strife never equaled that of the scope experienced in California in the 1880’s and to Mexico's credit, the government never enacted an equivalent to the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act, which for a time prevented all persons of Chinese heritage from holding U.S. citizenship (see our article about California in the 1880's in our December 2004 newsletter).

            Mexicali quickly became a refuge for Chinese fleeing the violence on both sides of the border, since in that Chinese dominated city the clans were strong enough to protect their own. As the anti-Chinese movement faded away, still more Chinese arrived in Mexicali, which became the Mexican headquarters for the Kuomintang, Sun Yat-Sen's nationalist Chinese party. During World War II, the nationalists were pushed out of China first by the Japanese and then by the Communists. In a humanitarian change of heart, the Mexican government loosened its immigration policies to allow a large number of Chinese refugees into Mexico in the 1940s.

            As in the rest of the country (including Ensenada), Mexicali’s Chinese restaurants are among the most economical places to eat. The city still boasts more Chinese restaurants per capita than any other city in Mexico. Currently over a hundred Chinese restaurants can be found in Mexicali. Cantonese cooking predominates, but with few exceptions it's not the sort you'd recognize from Canton or Hong Kong--or Vancouver or San Francisco, for that matter. As in many Chinese restaurants outside of Asia, immigrant cooks have adapted their native cuisine to local tastes. To satisfy Mexican appetites accustomed to stacks of tortillas, lard-laced beans, heavily seasoned rice and barbecued meats, Mexicali's Chinese restaurants serve huge individual portions that might feed a family of five in China. Some dining rooms represent the ultimate in Chinese restaurant kitsch and are worth visiting for their exterior and interior designs alone. Along Mexicali's broader avenidas huge multi-room Palacios with curving green-tiled roofs and red-and-gold lacquered pavilions invoke the imperial architecture of China past.


Fiction writers can’t be trusted, they make things up.



            Punta Banda, a mountainous promontory about 8 miles long and 2 miles wide, extends in a northwesterly direction and forms the southern shores of Bahia de Todos Santos. It is 27 kilometers by road from Ensenada and 17 kilometers by sea. In about 1885 plans were laid to establish the Colonia Carlos Pacheco. This colony was comprised of the three “cities” of Ensenada, San Carlos and Punta Banda. These three areas were situated north to south respectively, at intervals along the bay shore. Two thousand acres were designated at the base of the mountain for the town site of Punta Banda. A 1500-foot pier was built to serve the steamship lines that occasionally visited the region. A rare salty hot sulphorous spring was located in this area and a hotel and bath house were constructed, which opened in 1888. Unfortunately, the collapse of the prosperity of the 1880’s, due to the short-lived gold rush (see our February 2004 Newsletter article), caused the inability to sell town site lots. As a result, by 1897 the Punta Banda area became deserted. The pier and the hotel were gradually destroyed by storms and the town was finally abandoned.

            During the first decades of the 20th century the site again became a small settlement, and by 1921 the population was listed at 86. The adjoining Maneadero Valley to the northeast became a prosperous agricultural area, and this prosperity gradually extended into the Punta Banda area. This led to the popularity and prosperity that Punta Banda enjoys today. Nowadays you will find the area has been developed into a thriving little tourist center. The peninsula is occupied with campgrounds, cabins, and boat ramps that have made Punta Banda a popular tourist destination. Near the tip of promontory is a spectacular site named La Bufadora, a “blowhole”, which is a little sea cave where wave action causes a compression of air and a resultant explosion of sea spray into the air beneath a spectator lookout. Adjoining the blow hole is a development of craft and artisan booths and restaurants to serve the visiting public. If time permits, visit this area while you are in Ensenada, it is a beautiful drive through a green agricultural valley to a majestic mountain Cape with a superb view across the sea to the north and the south. This magnificent landmark portal is your gateway to further adventure south of Ensenada.



Imagination is more important than knowledge.





(a sample excerpt from our books)

            Possession of firearms or drugs will find you in a Mexican jail. Do not get yourself in the position of having to hide or jettison these items if stopped and searched by Mexican Officials.  It’s simply not worth the risk and/or consequences, and the Mexican judicial system cannot be as easily manipulated as we are accustom to in the U.S..


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