Internet Newsletter

From The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada

March/April 2006

Volume 4 , Number 3/4



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

True Traveler Publishing

P.O. Box 60023

San Diego, CA 92166


(619) 857-0368  















Container Ship Grounding Update


The beginning of the month of February saw a new flurry of activity on that usually lazy Mexican beach typically inhabited by sand pipers, surfers, and wild speeding ATV riders. As February convened at the APL Panama grounding site, salvors commissioned a 500-foot rock-and-sand ramp and hired a giant crawler crane to carry containers ashore. Weighed down by cargo and pinned in by sand, the 885-foot vessel has refused to leave the broad sandy beach where it ran aground on a chilly stormy waved Christmas night, now almost seven weeks ago as of the 1st of February The Baja California construction company Amaya Curiel y Cia S.A. de C.V. built the jetty. Company President Roberto Curiel said today the 300-ton crawler crane, with a 250-foot boom, began working around the clock, moving up to 60 containers per day. It is interesting to note that this is the same Curiel group that owns and manages the Coral Marina where this Captain is now publishing this new newsletter on the sailing yacht Sitka.

Leaders of the salvage effort had hoped they wouldn't have to resort to the costly land-based operation. They initially relied on a Sikorsky skyhook helicopter to remove some of the lighter containers from the ship. But many of the boxes weigh more than the helicopter's 9,000 pound carrying capacity. Titan Maritime executives have told local officials that they are also hoping to bring in a more powerful helicopter, a Russian-made Mil-25 to lift the heavy containers. But the helicopter had yet to make an appearance today. Capt. Jose Luis Rios Hernandez, Ensenada's harbor master, said renewed pulling efforts are expected during the next few days. Salvage workers must not only remove cargo, but also find ways to remove the sand that is trapping the vessel. Meanwhile, the delay has had its consequences in central Mexico. Nissan was missing parts that were in about 100 containers, and as a result, did not produce vehicles on Jan 30, 31 and Feb 1 at its 5,000-employee facility in Aguascalientes, said Fred Standish, director of corporate communications for Nissan North America Inc.  

 On the 8th of February I again breached security and walked right down to the waters edge and the newly installed rock and dirt ramp and the huge crawler crane that has been stationed aside the ship in order to offload containers onto a series of arriving container carrying trucks. Security is now very tight at the checkpoints around the perimeter of the ship rescue staging area, but with the little number of Police manpower assigned to the area, it is impossible to protect all routes of entry.  Interestingly I walked right down the middle of the operation as if I belonged there and no one challenged me for credentials. The crane swung each container over to a waiting truck, where a worker maneuvered it into place. From one who has snuck into Formula One compounds, this was easy- notice the blue APL container I got photos of from far far away is a prominent subject of the truck photos I got 20 minutes later, the beautiful face of the Policia guy, and the visiting group of red uniformed school children. You will also notice that there is a tanker truck now allowed to get close enough to the ship to receive the oil fouled bilge salt water caused by the sea water that is daily seeping into the hull through the crack in the hull.

The next highest tide is in 4 days during the full moon - which will be the next big push to get the ship off the beach - but it is a low high tide of only 5.8 feet as opposed to the 6.9 feet two weeks ago. Notice in the photos, the crane can only get the containers off half the ship, because it can’t reach the containers on the other side… making this ship dangerously apt to pitch and flip over if floated… The Sikorski skyhook could only carry the smaller containers, as its load limit is 9 tons. This crane can accommodate the remaining containers, the largest of which are 22 ˝ tons, and these are 40 feet long. I know a local yachtsman that does tile work in Las Vegas- he can only import his tile up to a weight of 22 ˝ tons- which means he can only fill the 40 foot container up to 80% full, the rest is filler to stabilize the tile in the container.

I have received e-mails from all over the planet asking just what is going on down there on that Mexican beach as the news blackout has been stifling, and the lack of current news silence deafening. An e-mail enquiry to me from Australia from a company that has a container full of frozen meat aboard informed me that the ship loss has been declared “general average”, by the insurers. What is this general average? After a quick Google I came up with…

          “An ocean marine loss that occurs through the voluntary sacrifice of a part of the vessel or cargo, or an expenditure, to safeguard the vessel and its remaining cargo from a common peril. If the sacrifice is successful, all interests at risk contribute to the loss borne by owner of the sacrificed property based on their respective saved values. A party can insure their portion of such a loss under an ocean marine policy.”

This is just one of many repercussions that are being experienced downstream now as the timeline since the ships grounding is lengthened. The above mentioned Mexican production of thousands of cars at Nissan's plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, stalled after the APL Panama, which is carrying crucial auto components ran aground. A union leader said... "Given the situation, the plant must call a mandatory three-day 'technical strike,' beginning this past Monday and running through today, so that as of tomorrow, operations can normalize, allowing the 5,000 (Nissan) workers to continue to assemble 1,000 cars a day," Gabriel Jasso, secretary general of the Nissan workers union said.

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Container Ship Grounding Update


It has been revealed by very reliable sources that the ship is indeed cracked as reported in the last Newsletter. Environmental response teams remain on 24-hour standby to ensure that no damage is caused to the local environment. The group that manages the environmental team has been put on notice that if and when the ship is again floated, that there will be a leak of oil from the hull. Right now that leak is being managed by the impacted sand as the ship lies helplessly on the beach. When the ship is again put out to sea, that sand will fall away and the ruptured hull will let loose of the now fouled bilge water. The vessels owners continue to work in close cooperation with the Mexican authorities in order to remove the vessel in a safe and manageable manner from the beach. Here are the photos of the rescue attempt on the 12th of February during the full moon high tide, following photos of the low tide sunset the night before. This was a low high tide of only 5.8 feet as opposed to the 6.9 feet two weeks ago during the new moon. The buried prop and rudder simply won’t permit the freeing of the ship from the beach. During the weekends attempts a movement of the bow out to sea has the ship’s angle to the beach now at approximately at 75 degrees. There are still too many containers on board and the area around the stern needs to be dredged of the huge sand accumulation that has shackled the ship to this lazy Mexican Playa.

Container Ship Grounding Update


Below are a set of photos taken the afternoon of the 18th of February. The work being performed in an effort to unload the containers has accelerated exponentially. Two more cranes have been employed, one actually placed on the ship at the center of the ships length. A truck arrives and a container is there waiting- and if a truck does not arrive the containers are stacked two or three high to wait on the beach until the next truck arrives. Notice that the most effort to clear the containers from the ship was made over the center line of the ship, no doubt in a hope to relieve the strain on the crack in the hull reportedly in that area. These two additional cranes were needed because the original crane could not reach all the containers aboard. Also, notice the plan seems to be that the remaining containers will be left on the bow for the next high tide rescue attempt to cause the ship to hobby horse forward of center, or go bow down as the bow floats in the deeper water, causing the stern to rise and hopefully free itself from the sand. The previous statement would be giving the salvage team too much credit for smarts at this point as I think the water out at the bow at this juncture is too deep and a further ramp lengthening of greater material and manpower is either not now economically time possible or too expensive to deploy. My Mexican friends have quipped that the ramp to the ship is just a precursor of the entry needed to the future restaurants and curio shops to be realized once the ship is stripped and abandoned by the ship's owners...

The high tide next week on Monday February 27th during new moon is a high of 6.5 feet and that will be a 4 day period before and after that date of tides higher than the last high tide of 5.8 feet. Obviously that is the target date to float the ship as all full ahead with maximum steam is being shown by this massive 24-hour a day effort to decrease the weight on the ships decks. Hopefully at that time we will see this ship returned to the sea and then safely to a shipyard for the repairs necessary to get her out on the great blue highway delivering goods to the planet once again.

Container Ship Grounding Update


Just where are your containers and when will they be delivered? Amazingly, most of you don’t have a clue as I continue to get e-mail appeals from all over the world asking what may be happening with the cargo addressed to these shipping companies that now await their shipment’s forwarding assignment of mode of sea transportation. I took these photos below this morning, and as I was driving through Ensenada at dusk was halted in my progress through town by a POLICE ESCORT of truck borne APL Panama containers- very strange.  A customs truck was in the convoy as if this was a quarantine situation and the containers now are actually being impounded in the yards adjacent to the container loading dock by armed guard. One uninformed observer might assume that these now stacked in formation boxes would be just loaded onto another ship and then scurried on their merry way. But no, the assemblage is being bivouacked as if being kept as evidence of the APL Panama’s Captain and crew’s incompetence! If there are questions about your containers whereabouts, call your insurer as these photos are precious evidence of your valuable cargo’s current location and condition.

An e-mail sent from the other side of the planet today;

           I was just wondering if you could update me a little on the wonderful saga. As usual we have heard nothing from APL but our insurers sent me a report which was dated the 7th of February with some information. Of concern was the fact that the shore based crane could not reach the containers on the starboard side so I guess that leaves the danger of the ship tipping over as they remove the cargo on the port side. Unfortunately we do not know where our cargo is stowed so cannot get any idea of if and when it will come off. I was talking to a sea captain the other day who is now shore based here in Sidney.  He believes the chances of re-floating the vessel are virtually nil and that by now it is possible that she will have broken her back. He said that with every high tide she will be sinking further in to the sand. Everything we hear screams of incompetence and inertia and I find it incredible that we have to resort to your unofficial sources to help keep us informed. As usual please do not quote me on these comments.

Container Ship Grounding Update


           Today we witnessed a noble event in Ensenada history, as the Queen Mary 2 paid a port visit and as quickly as she arrived, was seen disappearing like any other cruise ship from port as the dusk settled on the annual Carnival celebration that now has the city of Ensenada vibrating with salsa festivity (read our article in our January 2005 Newsletter about this gala event). Not really anchored, as she is reportedly GPS stationed by continually rotating props along the hull below the water line, she deployed shore boats all day to the Cruiseport Marina and never actually landed at the Ensenada cruise ship docks preferring to hover like a hen protecting her brood. She is entirely too large for this port's docking accommodations, so this was the only way for this behemoth to visit Ensenada. The first picture below shows two passenger cruise ships (the larger QM 2 on the left) framing the APL Panama ashore in the background.  The white cruise ship on the right is just clearing the Ensenada breakwater after spending the day at the Ensenada docks. Notice she is so very much smaller than the QM 2. This is what struck this Captain so vividly, the mammoth size of this Victorian financed monstrosity. The second photo shows one of the tugs pulling on the beached Panama at the extreme left of the frame - I had to stop on the busy right hand side of the bridge into Ensenada to get this photo, wish I had a more leisure time to frame the QM 2 and the beached container ship from this prospective, but the passing vehicles were throwing gravel at me and my truck parked so close to the roadway on the apron - oh well, next time a container ship is grounded on the beaches of Ensenada and the QM 2 visits I will get "the whole picture"... As the dusk settled in and the smoke appeared from the regal yachts stacks in preparation for departure, the QM 2's lights didn't just pop and come on, they instead slowly intensified as the surrounding light diminished - very cool, as if some senior deck hand was controlling the ships lighting with a fat rheostat knob. The white light script "Queen Mary 2" can be seen below and is somewhat fuzzily show as the amid ship white billboard near the ship's smoke stack. Very state of the art this custom yacht, and no there was no crowned jeweled little old lady seen today, or a big nosed guy that has not a clue as to what to peruse in a desirable spouse... ;-)

Queen Mary 2 is the world's largest, longest, tallest, and grandest ocean liner ever! Since she set sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage on January 12, 2004, excitement surrounds her all over the world. The below stats from the Cunard Lines QM 2 fact sheet.

1,132 feet
135 feet
Beam at Bridge Wings:
147.5 feet
32 feet 10 inches
Height (Keel to Funnel):
236.2 feet
Gross Tonnage:
Approximately 151,400 gross tons
Top Speed:
157,000 horsepower, environmentally friendly, gas turbine/diesel electric plant
Four pods of 21.5 MW each; 2 fixed and 2 azimuthing
Extra thick steel hull for strength and stability for Atlantic crossings
Two sets
Estimated $800 million dollars

Some comparisons:

bulletQM2 is five times longer than Cunard's first ship, Britannia (230 ft.)
bulletQM2 is 113 feet longer than the original Queen Mary
bulletQM2 is more than twice as long as the Washington Monument is tall (550 ft.)
bulletQM2 is 147 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall (984 ft.)
bulletQM2 is more than 3 ˝ times as long as Westminster Tower (Big Ben) is high (310 ft.)
bulletQM2 is only 117 feet shorter than the Empire State Building is tall (1248 ft.)
bulletQM2 is more than three times as long as St. Paul's Cathedral is tall (366 ft.)
bulletQM2 is as long as 41 double-decker London buses (31 ˝ ft. each)
bulletQM2's whistle will be audible for 10 miles




Container Ship Grounding Update


            As the morning broke over this Ensenada beach after a Saturday night of Carnival party activities, all is the same regarding the APL Panama and her current whereabouts.  It is interesting to note that the annual effigy that is burned at the start of the Carnival celebration this year was a figure that was made to resemble the Captain of the ship of the APL Panama. Today my VHF radio was tuned to the tugs operations channel 77 and a few interesting segments of information were revealed. As can be seen in the photos below the hydraulic puller barge is stationed at the bow of the ship close in.  This new approach had the tugs Captains discussing how to lay out the three anchors being deployed as these photos were taken.  One tug Captain explained how the barge is now almost full of water and is itself now becoming a stationary anchor for pulling maximum effort on the APL Panama.  It was also mentioned that the barge was in the channel that has been formed outside the ship.  Soon another tug asked where to lay out the port anchor and was told the latitude and longitude and the number of shots of chain to lay out at between 50 and 100 feet.

            Then a tug Captain asked what position on the radar he should be stationed in relation to a red buoy that they are using for correct attitude to the beach and assigned tow.  At one point he said his tow, the hydraulic puller barge, was getting away from him and he needed to refine his position.  At that time he said he was having trouble focusing on the buoy, and then another tug chimed in with “does that have any relationship to the good times you had in town last night?”.  They were both have a little fun at this point, these guys have been here now for almost 10 weeks, and this job watching a cable attached to a grounded ship has got to be wearing thin.  As a licensed Captain with a towing endorsement, I know of which I speak. Next they then discussed how they adhered to the rules and regs last night; Captains can't imbibe for a certain amount of hours before operating such powerful machinery.  They did end this discussion with how they were tempted at a certain house of ill-repute in town, and one captain quipped,” perhaps I have said too much already”.  Then another guy said what a beautiful morning it is, and was answered that we wouldn't have it any other way for you on your last day here before heading home. 

            There is a rain influence coming in tomorrow on the highest tide full moon of this cycle.  As mentioned before, a channel is forming ahead of the ship. This past two days a dredge was expected to arrive to deepen and widen this channel giving the APL Panama a clear and deep re-entry into the sea.  The containers on deck are almost all offloaded, a few have been left on the far starboard side of the ship and bow to apparently help in floating the ship off the sand.

            As I write this it is quite festive on the cliff overlooking the beached ship, the police have already been here on ATVs checking for beer, which is prohibited here and of course the beers were hidden while the cops were here. I quipped to the fiesta of locals forming, loudly, "no cerveza aqui, solamente Tequila! (no beer here, only Tequila!)"  Which brought up a host of hoots and howls from the assemblage, and I of course was offered cervezas and tequilas from all sides of my call for further Mexican alcohol driven celebration. After all, this was Sunday and getting totally sauced is some kind of macho Mexican ritual, this author surmises.  Meanwhile the tugs are conversing about a southerly current which is forced them to trend their tugs at an almost direct northerly heading from their tow. Yes, even if stationary (the APL Panama), this is a group of working tugs assigned to a tow. All the while baseball is being played on the beach, horses are being rented on the beach, and on this cliff onions and tomatoes are being chopped for the ceviche tostadas being eaten out of the bed of an old beaten up truck.

            As the afternoon progresses the radio traffic on VHF 77 got more frantic as heavy chain was deployed from the hydraulic puller barge in order to set it in place and the tugs danced in their efforts to keep the barges attitude to the ship's bow correct.  Each tug has to keep the proper heading and relationship to each other by radar bearings taken constantly. We must applaud these guys out there on the briny seas for there valiant efforts to rescue this grand shipping lady off her sandy bottom.

And yes, I again stole into a restricted zone and the photos just keep getting better and better, and yes I need you to donate to the address below-


Container Ship Grounding Update


            Yesterday the most outstanding changed feature of the beach surrounding the grounded APL Panama was the sand cliffs that have formed along the immediate area inshore from the ship. A dredge arrived at the beginning of this past week and has worked to excavate a channel offshore from the bow of the Panama in order to create a path for the ship’s return to the sea and subsequently to a ship yard for repairs. Reportedly this is a Belgian dredge from Nicaragua that has been hired to create this channel and remove the sand around the ship. The dredge is a 313-foot vessel, with a 69-foot sleeve that is able to remove 4,400 cubic meters per hour. This beach erosion is most undoubtedly created by the dredge’s attempts as how else would this have happened by natural forces as it did not occur until the dredge arrived? The dredge was not in operation yesterday and the scuttlebutt is that they are only contracted to work during regular business hours 5 days a week.

If you look closely at the photos below, you will notice that this change in the beach’s character has not affected the depth of the waters surrounding the ship. It is still very shallow along the entire length of the ship as waves can be seen breaking on the bow of the ship, indicating the depth at that area of the ship is only 5 to 10 feet. The sandy bottom around the ship continues to be silted by every high tide and the ship just sinks further in the sand with every tide change. Remember when you were a child and you stood for the first time in the sand at the tide line and every rush of wave action around your feet caused them to further sink in the sand until you were up to your ankles in sand? The same natural phenomena its occurring here and regardless of how much sand that dredge evacuates from the area, Mother Nature will not allow this attempt to succeed. It would take a team of dredges surrounding the ship to make this effort a success working 24 hours a day, not one dredge working banker’s hours!

My previous contention that a rock jetty needs to be built around the ship to seal the APL Panama from the incoming sand that naturally occurs at every tide is really the only way I see as a viable solution to the situation. This would create a little sea, a private marina for the Panama, and then the sand could be removed from the enclosure, and the ship floated thought the opening in the jetty enclosure. After all, as you can see, the local construction company hired to create the rock and dirt ramp to offload the containers could just as easily surround the ship with a loop of jetty material. But the jetty would need to be composed of huge rock, trucked in and placed by the crawler crane that is now removing the ship’s cargo. This because the current ramp made of light rock and dirt is in the shadow of the ships attitude to the sea and is being protected by the ship’s own jetty action - any constructed jetty outside that ship shadow would have to be made of heavy large boulders as the pounding surf would be daily attempting to disassemble the construction.  This new jetty would also protect the Panama from further wave action pounding her continually threatening to break her up right there on the beach. Will that occur and after the cargo is removed, will the powers that be, insures and ship owners just cut and run? Thus leaving the Panama as a monument to how regardless of the level of maritime prowess and problem solution we think we have realized; our ability to make pivotal errors in judgment and Mother Nature’s supremacy can always override our attempts to avoid such costly errors of judgment as we have seen and are continually daily seeing on that formerly desolate Mexican Beach.

The ships angle to the beach has not changed since last week’s high tides. There were only two tugs yesterday pulling on cables attached to the bow, and no hydraulic puller barge was in attendance helping maintain control of the two tug’s mammoth beached tow assignment. Notice in the photos below that the ships decks are almost entirely devoid of cargo, there are just a few containers on the stern that the crane could not reach. Now the crane mounted aboard and amidships is pulling cargo out of the hold of the ship below decks and passing those containers to the crawler crane and then to the beach and the constantly arriving trucks. Quite a system they have going of forwarding your sea borne shipments all you insures and shipping companies that are daily arriving at this website for the latest news! The hit count at this site for the short month of February was incredible - now if I could have just a dollar for every hit - please see the below mailing address and donate to this site and the free information we are supplying to you as the situation evolves. Thank you again for your continued interest and your support! Cheers and good luck getting your cargo anytime soon as the whole lot of boxes being removed from the ship are still in quarantine at the Ensenada waterfront docks, delivered by police and customs red flashing lights and sirens escorts.


Container Ship Grounding Update



            Again today the contrast to the last visit to this beach was a remarkable and vivid change of scenery and events in this ever lengthening timeline that defines the APL Panama’s attempted rescue here on the beaches of Ensenada. The last time I was here on this beach, unbeknown to me, the last of the containers were being unloaded as today the giant crawler crane had been broken down and was being prepared for its departure and service at the local Amaya Curiel port facility. The waiting container carrying trucks were now gone, replaced by rock bearing trucks. The next phase has been entered, as now the rock and dirt ramp that was constructed to accommodate the container cranes is being broken down and hauled off the beach. Local papers have written that the Ensenada port authority has decreed that the ship may not be moved off the beach until the beach is restored to its previous natural state. So, this is the plan, to scurry and get that ramp demolished before the next full moon high tide coming Tuesday, March 14th, the spring tide.

Notice in the photos below that the sand cliffs have gotten even higher as the dredge attempts to pull all the sand from the area around the ship… Also notice this attempt is failing as the ship continues to sink further into the sand as the sand is dredged and taken offshore. And the waves continue to break in the area of the bow, indicating the shallow depth of that area. As the tugs worked the puller barge today close to the shore and the ship, I could sense a growing urgency to get this situation resolved in the next week. This is the closest I have seen these guys work their tow, and the closest I have seen them approach the beach; the red hulled tug named Leader is itself in very shallow water and braving the wave forces that be to perform her job valiantly this winter Ensenada morning. The dredge waited offshore as this work was performed and was not seen close to the ship while I was there today. But last evening as the sun set she was seen moving stealthily around the bow of the Panama back and forth sweeping the area of sand and then going out toward the sea in the bay to dump her load.

Again it must be noted that this ship continues to sink into the sand as every tide flow arrives, and as we cannot stop the tides - how does the salvage team plan to successfully release this ship from her sandy prison?  The chatter on the radio was mostly very business like today, purely attending to orders being given by the salvage master orchestrating today’s sea drama. But in contrast, talk about crew relief coming and guys returning to San Diego and flying to see their families back east was the human element of the day’s ship to ship VHF radio exchanges. Out there are heard allot of southern accents indicating the body of these crews are from the Titan team’s home base in the southeast US… We again show our respect and thank them for a cold winter’s job well done to this point, even if not yet successful. Yes, this is a very cold and rainless winter here, average temps have been from 50 to 60 degrees, very unseasonable here in this latitude that is too far north for summer hurricanes and too far south for Alaskan Aleutian winter storm influences.

A bone structure appeared today as the sand was dredged away from the shoreline - is this bone the remnant of a previous grounding? Perhaps a whale at one time occupied this beach stranded as the APL Panama is today.


Container Ship Grounding Update



          Just as she arrived, the APL Panama this morning left the beaches of Ensenada in darkness. There was absolutely no indication this would happen when it did because the Ensenada port authority reportedly in the local newspapers had decided the ship could not leave the beach until the beach was returned to its former natural state of existence. At 4:45 am local time, as reported by local dependable Ensenada authorities (see March 18th Update below), the ship floated into the bay toward the open sea. The photos below were taken this morning as a rainstorm approached Ensenada from the northwest. The ramp on the beach has only been partially dismantled and when the below photos were taken many trucks were waiting to carry the rock and dirt that compose the ramp off the beach to an unknown location. The ship today after rescue from the beach is stationed in the bay, no doubt awaiting customs clearance for the trip to a shipyard for repair. This customs clearance may be delayed until the beach is declared by the local authorities to be cleaned up to their specification.

          At the time the ship was floated, the tide was at a relatively low high tide of 4.3 feet progressing to a 6 am high tide of 5 feet, the current was just past the maximum of .6 knots flood from a direction of 328 degrees. A moderate 3 to 5 foot surf swell was breaking on the beach as a winter storm was approaching from the north. There was very little wind, and perhaps as quickly and unexpectedly as she went ashore, she levitated in the tide and moved through the surf to the bay. The puller barge was out in the bay along with the dredge last evening far away from the grounding area at sunset and there was absolutely no indication that the ship was to be moved off the beach this morning. I did have a report from a fellow news reporter that the APL Panama was to be removed from the beach today, as related by the ship’s PR man on Tuesday. I did not report that as I thought that was a bit optimistic as the ship appeared to be hopelessly anchored in the sand. I will forever be unhappy that I was not at the beach listening to the VHF radio conversations from tug to tug as the ship released from the sand!!! My failed assignment!

          Noticed in the photos the water line of the Panama when afloat is almost the duplicate if the waterline when she was resting in the sand. The ship was being circled by the tugs that have been daily attending to her on the beach as if celebrating her freedom by doing doughnuts around the ship. The ship seemed to be stabilized and no smoke was seen from her stacks as she was relying on the tugs for forward momentum. A trip to the beach after she was in the bay revealed no oil collection teams busily cleaning up an oil spill. So for today’s report- the ship is off the beach and the containers are still safely in the quarantine area of the Ensenada docks. This is good news to all of you that have been daily visiting this website. This site received almost 100,000 hits this past 2 days, the highest hit count for two days during this Panama grounding period, perhaps you too were anticipating this happening as I was, but from my perspective, it could have happened in the day time and we would have many more dramatic photos (this reporter has taken over 3500 photos of the ship since the Panama went aground) to share of the ship breaking free of her position here now for the last 10 weeks since Christmas night. Word is from a worker on the container loading docks interviewed today that the ship may come into Ensenada after she is proven to be safe for entry, without causing any problems in the port such as an oil spill or further cracking in the hull, and offload her remaining containers aboard. The plight of those yet to be offloaded containers still on the ship and the containers on the dock in quarantine I will continue to monitor and report about, and I will continue to notify you of any events that warrant an update about the APL Panama and her continuing story.



Container Ship Grounding Update


Today I finally got out to photograph the APL Panama on a luxury yacht after this past two day’s intense thunderstorms. A 3 minute 70 MPH blow came through here yesterday, good thing the Panama was offshore. Yes, the timing was extraordinary, rescuing this ship from the beach at the close of our winter storm period. Visit our Photo Album Page to see the huge waves that came ashore last March, climbing over our jetty enclosure here at the Coral Marina.

From a Honk Kong Worldwide Insurer regarding my inquiry as to just what is a General Average (GA) and is this a “Level 10”... And - do you have many annually in the world?

“Yes a General Average as you have correctly worked out, it is a very old "institutional" marine insurance claims term as opposed to PA (particular average) which means, partial loss.

Yes there are different levels (intensity) of GAs, but they are not ranked as "1 to 10", they are assessed initially and adjusted in due course, can in fact take years for what is known as an Average Adjuster (a profession) to collect and collate all the necessary documents, data and accounts in order to finalize a GA adjustment and conclude all the parties liabilities' of a GA.

Do we have many in our world? Well, a hard question I suppose internationally / globally anywhere between 5 and 10 annually but can vary significantly. A simple definition of a GA, which by the way has to be declared at the time of the casualty / incident by ship owner’s representative would go something as follows: in a time of danger and peril to the whole marine adventure which means ship and cargo interests, extraordinary and voluntary sacrifice is undertaken to protect the interests in the ship and the cargo and the cost of all salvage operations is shared and eventually met equally by the ship and the cargo interests (which in both cases will generally if not always involve marine insurers). By the way as you would image, GAs will normally involve on board fires (usually engine room), stranding, grounding, foundering on rocks etc.... It would appear that some of the main reasons why this one appears to be so big, is firstly because it must have been estimated (early on) that it would take a long time to get it off the bottom (long lay time) and indeed the real possibility that it might not come off and may have to be declared a constructive total loss and abandoned!!! As is where is!!!! Time will sure tell.

No, our liability is not necessarily "lessened" by a GA proclamation, it will depend on each occasion as to what we have insured i.e. cargo or ship, and if cargo, whether it has been otherwise damaged in the (salvage operations) process or not and also what sort of insured value it might have. As you will have gathered due to the financial salvage costs sharing equation outlined in the definition, one most important factor is the age of the ship which strongly impacts its sum insured and its comparison to or versus the aggregate sum insured of all cargo on board. Clearly if the ship is worth US 20 million $ and the cargo US 10 million $, the 2 thirds one third is a totally different equation for marine cargo insurers compared to the ship insured for US 50 million $ and the cargo for US 100 million $! That is one of the strong reasons why marine insurers are always supporting sundry measures for better maintenance, full insured value and scrapping of older ships and why they also charge an additional insurance premium penalty for cargo carried on older or (some) convenience flag cargo ships.

One last point is that the concept of the GA has been under strong criticism and debate with insurers (largely) for some 20 years at least as they are of the view that it (GA that is) should be scrapped because it represents a "maintenance guarantee" mechanism for less that well managed and well maintained ships. Indeed and additionally one should not forget that there is a whole, Average Adjusting industry and profession, relying on its continued existence too!"

Below we have initially a local sailing regatta framing the APL Panama and Punta Banda, and finally our yacht Capitan for the day taking a hard earned home work break - Senor Sterling


Container Ship Grounding Update


As of today, expert divers from Miami are examining the Panama’s hull for soundness before she is allowed into the port of Ensenada; if the hull is OK, she will be allowed to come into port and offload and then proceed to Germany for repair. If not allowed due to a badly damaged hull that could possibly take on water and sink in the port while at the container docks; the ship will be taken to Manzanillo for repair with the remaining containers still aboard. A Panama clone ship was at the docks yesterday loading and unloaded new cargo in the port; as still waiting on the adjacent docks are the containers taken off the Panama for forwarding at a future date on another container ship. I know of one container that was aboard the Panama, a load of mutton chops from Australia bound for Mexico City, wow is that box going to be fragrant when it is opened!



Container Ship Grounding Update


          A trip to the beach today after the day's rain squalls revealed an entirely new playa panorama then I last saw the morning the APL Panama was rescued from the beach March 10th. The above photo would have a looming container ship in the background in the days before the ship was removed from this shore. The first 4 photos below were taken at 9 am and the remaining photos were taken after the midday rain, at 4 pm.  The end of the jetty in photo Adios 2 marks the place on the beach in the distance behind the jetty where the Panama laid on the beach since that blustery Christmas night. That is the port (left-hand) jetty as you enter the harbor of Ensenada, and as you can see the ship had entirely not enough room to make a starboard loop when she found herself too close to the beach and out of the entrance buoy line without the pilot aboard.

         Today on the shoreline where the ship was stranded, only a small pile of rock and some heavy equipment remained as evidence that the whole ordeal ever happened on this usually quiet local Mexican residential beach. I revisited the bluff with my Policeman friend (now promoted since I last spoke with him) that was on guard the night the ship went aground. See his exclusive eyewitness interview of how this grounding took place in our last newsletter. He informed me of new information about the last night the Panama was on the shore and just how the rescue was successfully performed. He was in charge of the bluff that night and went home at 12 midnight to get some rest as he had to work the next day at 4 pm. Being the top ranking officer of the bluff and surrounding area, his cell phone was by his bed and if anything happened that required his attention, the policemen he left to replace him were to call him at this home. This they indeed did, calling him at 4:45 am March 10th, to inform him that the ship was being moved off the beach.

          He related to me today that he had spoken to an official of the salvage team in the past week and he had been given the scoop regarding the nuts and bolts of just how the ship was pulled off the beach that morning. Looking at the photos I took on March 7th above you can see the hydraulic puller barge right next to the ship's bow, being attended to by the crane stationed on the Panama's bow. Evidentially, the salvage team that day were depositing two hydraulic pulling devices on the ships decks. He was told that these pullers were attached by chain to two 4,000 ton kedge anchors that were positioned between 1/4 and 1/2 mile offshore of the ship in the new channel created by the dredge. By this method the ship was able to pull herself out of the sand with the aid of the offshore tugs. He said he saw no puller barge attached to the ship when he left the bluff at the end of his shift that night at midnight, all looked as any other day, with the tugs offshore and the APL Panama firmly rooted in the sand.

          So, the end result was the ship was freed by the dredge removing the sand build up along the starboard side of the ship, and also creating a channel offshore through which the ship could be pulled to the sea; and the strategic placement of the hydraulic pullers on her bow decks and the deployment of huge anchors to pull on offshore of the ship. In retrospect, lets not forget the many hours spent here working by the salvage crews that facilitated this ship rescue through the 10 weeks she was stranded on this Mexican beach. Sombreros off to these guys, standing watch 24/7 to insure the tugs in their command did as the salvage master ordered, gracious!



Container Ship Grounding Update


            The photos above and below were taken today from the Coral Hotel and Marina where this author’s yacht has been now for the past 7 years. As you can see, the APL Panama is stationed in the Bahia de Todos Santos dead center within the Buena Vista viewed by those visiting the Coral Hotel above our Marina. The first photo below entitled “3-21 1.jpg” illustrated just how off course and out of the assigned pilot boat meeting area the APL Panama was this past Christmas night when she went on the beach. The container ship waiting at position “A” today is in the area where she should be, waiting for the pilot boat to approach and transfer the harbor pilot onto the ship for safe entry into the port.

            In sworn testimony the harbor pilot that was on duty that night was leaving the jetty enclosed harbor en route to the Panama at position “B”, at the end of the jetties that define the harbor. As the pilot emerged from the port he observed the Panama’s running lights had already passed the pilot boarding zone and that the ship was traveling at a high rate of speed, estimated at 7 knots, approaching the beach at a 90 degree angle. Rather than turning to port and looping around back out to sea, the Captain of the Panama decided to try to turn hard over to starboard and was grounded on the beach at position “C” shown in the photo below. Perhaps the Croatian Captain aboard the Panama thought he did not have enough sea room to make the port turn and clear the harbor jetties as she came about. Little did he know as he initiated his turn to starboard, that he did not have enough sea room to clear the beach. The location where the ship grounded is the deepest part of the bay, at a point where the shoreline extends most distant from the entry to the bay. That is the the spot at which she laid on her sandy bottom until this past March 10th when she was removed from the beach and again embraced her briny bottom.               Word is from my contacts on the local container docks that the APL Panama has been examined and repaired by divers to the satisfaction of the Port of Ensenada authorities and will be allowed to enter the harbor to offload the remaining containers aboard. After this task is performed, she will proceed to a chosen port for a shipyard appointment and repair. Her next destination is as yet undecided; Manzanillo, Germany and ports in the Orient have been rumored as the next destination for this damaged ship, we will let you know more as the situation evolves. Also, photos of the ship entering the harbor and offloading her cargo should be posted on this site in the next 2 days if all goes well with our local weather, and the ships continued ability to remain afloat and not take on water or spill pollutants in the bay.

            General information and reservation information about the beautiful Coral Hotel and Marina can be found at the Coral website;


Container Ship Grounding Update


The latest news from the container dock contacts I have is that the APL Panama was actually on the docket and scheduled to enter the harbor and offload her cargo this past 2 days but a last minute kink was thrown into the plan. There are reportedly 580 boxes still aboard below decks and it would take roughly 3 days to complete the offloading of these remaining containers. The grounds of the port of Ensenada are full to the brim with the other containers that have already been offloaded and now are now still being held in the waterfront yards; as yet having not been released to be placed on another APL carrier for forwarding to their destinations of shipment. So, there simply isn’t any space for the additional containers until the containers now on the ground are released.

And, there are some heavy demands of some high numbers of dollars to receive this necessary clearance for the release of these boxes now held in limbo. Reportedly also there are some very expensive numbers being bantered about before the ship can be offloaded as fees for the offloading process. And one other segment of information passed on to me; a window of three days simply does not exist for the Panama to be at the docks continuously as this is a very busy port - and that would back up other scheduled shipments, with ships waiting at anchor in the bay for the Panama to complete her offloading.

So, as of today, the money amounts and the scheduling dates are being juggled to try to accommodate the needs of this ship that remains stationed in the Bahia de Todos Santos.


Container Ship Grounding Update


            A special thanks to the one donation I have received to date - a 5$ bill sent from an unnamed person in Indiana, USA. The return address only included the city and state and not the name of the party that sent the cash. The script on the envelope suggested it was sent by a school child - all the news organizations, shipping companies and insurance companies that have been visiting this site daily should check themselves. This site has received over 590,000 hits this past two months to date. Have you contributed yet?



Container Ship Grounding Update


          Below we present a series of photos showing the proper line for entry into the Ensenada Harbor. Photo 4-1 5.jpg shows a visiting container ship waiting for the pilot boat approaching in the designated pilot boarding area. As the pilot boat enters the harbor in the following photos the ship enters the harbor buoy line. Photo 4-1 9aa.jpg has a star above where the APL Panama went aground, depicting how far out of the harbor buoy line the ship was when she went on the beach. It has been reported in the media that the salvage company and the City of Ensenada are negotiating regarding the city's claim that salvage operations caused some street damage in Ensenada and the streets must be repaired. APL and the vessel's owners claim they are not involved in these negotiations, although APL marked container carrying trucks were plainly seen (and photographed by this author, see above) moving the boxes from the beach to the docks where they now rest - over these now claimed damaged roads. It is also reported that vessel operations have not been delayed as a result of these negotiations between the salvors and the city. But, it must be noted, nothing new has transpired in the progress of the APL Panama toward the docks to offload her remaining containers aboard, or to sea for repairs in another port since she was floated on March 10th… Is the delay caused by more money demands from certain parties involved locally in order to permit the containers to be offloaded, current containers on the ground to be cleared for forwarding, and the clearance of the Panama to another port for repairs?


Container Ship Grounding Update


          Today, just 6 hours ago, the APL Panama entered the Port of Ensenada with little or no fanfare and unannounced. Escorted by 2 tugs and a Mexican Navy ship, she was tied to the container ship docks a approximately 7 am local time, just before the arrival of the two cruise ships that arrive every Saturday with exited tourists aboard waiting to disembark for a day visiting the colorful city of Ensenada. Interestingly, Ensenada is now the second most visited cruise ship port in Mexico, second only to Cancun. No containers were observed being unloaded yet, the crane on deck and on the crane barge next to the Panama appeared to be pulling various odds and ends out of the hold. No doubt an assortment of goods that were used for the salvage attempt and the repair of the cracks in the hull now widely documented in the press, but written about first on this web site. These first photos are at a distance as security is extremely tight close to the ship. This afternoon I will try to get into the security loop and bring you more photos perhaps showing the cargo being offloaded at a closer range. Look forward to these photos being posted either later today or tomorrow. Have you donated to support this site? Please do, see below for mailing information.

Mother Nature prevailed, and we have a marshmallow gloss on all these photos - some days you just can't pick the ideal time of the day for the perfect lighting - and this is a perfect example...


As of 1600 hours today the boxes are now coming off the APL Panama. In the photos below the star indicates where the Panama was ashore grounded until March 10th, one month ago in 2 days. Better contrast in these photo files as the wind blew hard this afternoon and deleted all that LA and San Diego smog!



Container Ship Grounding Update


The APL Panama was back out in the Bahia de Todos Santos today. Early in the morning she was returned to the bay in order to vacate the container ship docks for another ship that arrived at the pilot boarding area at 1pm and was settled at the docks for loading and unloading by 2pm. The Panama is now parked directly offshore of the beach she lay on from Christmas 2005 until March 10th almost one month ago. We visited that beach today and below is a montage of current and past photos that illustrate the changes in that beach since the Panama was rescued and returned to the sea. The beach has been returned to the walkers, runners, surfers, and ATV vehicles that visit the beach daily and every weekend.


Container Ship Grounding Update


This is the second container ship to occupy the docks since the APL Panama left the docks early yesterday.

And as the sun set this evening, yet another fully laden container ship waited at anchor near the Panama in the Bahia de Todos Santos waiting to replace the ship shown above when she leaves port.


Container Ship Grounding Update


          As a new container ship arrived at the harbor docks today, the APL Panama was blowing smoke in the Bahia de Todos Santos in preparation for leaving the Ensenada beach and bureaucratic chains that have bound her since Christmas Day 2005. Her holds now reportedly empty of containers, and her damaged propeller reportedly replaced, the ship is now waiting for the necessary Customs clearance to leave the area en route for a another port for repair. My containership dock contacts today reported that the dock crews worked overtime and successfully got all the boxes off while she was in port this past weekend. So, all it is going to take is a few more papers signed and few more pesos exchanged and this saga will be just a memory in the minds of those residents of the area that now visit the beach without even glancing offshore at the monstrosity that once dominated their beach and the attention of all Ensenada residents.


Container Ship Grounding Update


          The above photo, slightly posterized, was taken yesterday during the biggest prevailing wind yet this spring. This wind caused the APL Panama to wind vane into the day's stiff breeze to the northwest and show the front of her superstructure. Still located in the same spot since our last report and still waiting for port Customs clearance, she has now celebrated both Christmas and Easter in Ensenada. Next? Cinco de Mayo!


Container Ship Grounding Update


I have been in San Diego the past 5 days covering the Opening Day ceremonies of the San Diego Yacht Club and visiting family. On Thursday April 20th while I was gone the APL Panama cleared customs and slipped out of the bay at 5:40 am. After 116 days in the Ensenada area and 75 days stranded on the beach, the 885 foot vessel was escorted by tugs to an unknown destination in Asia for repair and refit. Touted in shipping circles as the most extensive salvage ever of a containership vessel, the little circus at the playa was closed down March 10th, then the saga was prolonged by further hoops created for the Panama’s owners to jump through before she could be freed from the local bureaucracy. Before she could leave, the ships owners had to post a 2million dollar bond with Profepa, the Mexican environmental agency. The bond is a guarantee against any future environmental damages that may be ascertained as a result of the ships financially disastrous stay shore on the Ensenada beach.

Also, the damages alleged by the city against the salvors is still at issue. They salvage company has a lien on the containers that are being held at the port, subject to satisfactory settlement of the fees to be charged for the salvage process.

The general destination of the vessel is said to be the Philippines, a 45 day trip across the Pacific Ocean. The Dutch owned tug Hua An is reportedly towing the Panama as the repairs to the ships propulsion system did not make her sufficiently seaworthy to navigate on her own steam.

We will keep an eye on the containers and report any changes in their location and subsequent placement on a ship for forwarding.


The new San Diego Yacht Club Commodore Betty Sue Sherman with her proud Dad, famous world wide known yacht racer Carl Eichenlaub, with my APL Panama cover shot in January on the Log Newspaper. More photos of the SDYC Opening Day ceremonies in the next Newsletter.




If you read the body of this website you will realize I have deviated from my book publishing normal 90 Day Yacht Club local information features to accommodate the many of you that have asked for more grass roots embedded information on this developing story from an observer on the scene. Donations to support the cost of posting this timely information can be mailed to;

True Traveler Publishing

PO Box 60023

San Diego, CA 92166




APL Panama Local Flavor

Below the music was blaring and the good times were sharing, not so unusual this cliff side bash - whether the Panama was there or not, this happens every weekend on this litter strewn Mexican Beach


         A new pulse has emerged in Ensenada as the big boats are coming and have decided to stay the one year necessary to satisfy the current law in order to save the sales tax on their new yacht. The 90 Day rule is set to return July 1st this year, hopefully then we will see the medium priced new yachts arrive as they did before the law was temporarily changed. We are talking about the Silvertons, Hunters, Beneteaus, Tiaras, Catalinas, Grand Banks, and Mikelsons to name a few, yachts in the $400,000 to $800,000 price range that simply aren’t coming to Ensenada now as they did before the laws change.


Publishing is an active life while writing is a quiet life.





Baja California is famous for the incredible variety of fresh local foods that are available here. Rare delicacies like quail, lamb, marlin and duck are cheap and abundant. The best local cuisine takes advantage of these ingredients, they can offer gourmet dishes at amazingly reasonable prices.

          La Querencia is a gourmet fusion-dining design that has enjoyed considerable success in Rosarito Beach. Although local Mexican beautiful people eat there all the time, the restaurant has remained unknown to the American community because it is located outside of town on the free road to Tijuana. Now the owners of La Querencia in Rosarito have opened an Ensenada location with some local partners bringing the unique idea to Ensenada.

The La Querencia concept is to combine the freshest local ingredients via Baja Mediterranean fusion cuisine. The results are astonishing, and the prices are easy on the pocketbook. The menu features chef specials offering up duck, lamb, clams, marlin, crab, oysters and quail. There’s a range of prices, so that a diner can order just a few tacos or a complete dinner.

We tried the “Chef Suggestion” special, whereby the chef just starts sending things to your table until you can’t eat anymore. The dishes started out with a clam shot in a tequila glass and a chef’s oyster with fish roe. And then came the scallop sashimi “La Querencia” prepared in an oriental sauce with fresh local ginger. Next, there was a chilly relleno stuffed with crab, a roasted duck taco, and a marlin burrito. The first main dish was stuffed quail with mushroom rice and sage. Finally, the last item was roasted lamb ribs in a perfect pesto sauce, served over marinated vegetables. After all that, we were completely satisfied. The price for this extravaganza varies according to what the chef serves you, and how much you can eat.

If you are not ready for a meal so overwhelmingly filling, drop by for quickie light lunch. You can order the roasted duck taco and marlin burrito for less than five dollars. The duck taco is cooked perfectly, and presented elegantly with swirly nouveau cuisine flourishes. The marlin burrito is small, but very tasty, it is not at all clear why the marlin burritos are not on every menu in Baja. The duck tacos, marlin burritos, crab stuffed chili rellenos, and salmon sandwiches are all price between 2-6 dollars each.

Anyone that is a fan of lamb or quail should most assuredly visit this restaurant. The lamb plate is a bit pricy at 20 dollars, but the preparation is a delight. The quail is an excellent value, and is as fresh as can be. There’s a chalkboard listing that day’s menu.

There’s an extensive wine list, and the décor is best described as “hunt club modern”. In the Rosarito restaurant, there are hunting photos and stuffed deer heads combined with stylish stainless steel table tops in art studio lighting. The new Ensenada location is sure to be a hit, and is located in new Hussong's Plaza, across from Papa’s n Beer.











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