Internet Newsletter

From The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada

November 2004

Volume 2 , Number 11



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









Copyright 1980 Lonnie Ryan

The Author took this picture in Mazatlan in 1980 while on vacation from the

NOAA Ship McArthur San Francisco survey described later in this newsletter.






         The maintenance window has been the subject of much discussion and conjecture among those planning to arrive in Ensenada for the newly mandated one year stay. This is provided for by the following passage included in the new law passed recently and signed by Arnold, the Governator…


SEC. 2. Section 6248 of the Revenue and Taxation Code

6248 (a)

(2) This subdivision does not apply if, during the period following the time the aircraft or vessel is brought into this state and ending when the repair, retrofit, or modification of the aircraft or vessel is complete, more than 25 hours of airtime in the case of an airplane or 25 hours of sailing time in the case of a vessel are logged on the aircraft or vessel by the registered owner of that aircraft or vessel or by an authorized agent operating the aircraft or vessel on behalf of the registered owner of the aircraft or vessel.

The calculation of airtime or sailing time logged on the aircraft or vessel does not include airtime or sailing time following the completion of the repair, retrofit, or modification of the aircraft or vessel that is logged for the sole purpose of returning or delivering the aircraft or vessel to a point outside of this state.

(3) This subdivision applies to aircraft or vessels brought into this state for the purpose of repair, retrofit, or modification on or after the operative date of this subdivision.


         Assuming the main thrust of this proviso is aimed at aircraft and not boats as a boat can take months to accumulate 25 hours of sea time at home port for maintenance, retrofit and repair… one is left to wonder who will police this provision and log the hours each boat spends in it’s California port during the year of “offshore” existence. A true kink of this stipulation would have the boat spending the much of the year north of the border while “maintenance, retrofit and repair” is performed.

Meanwhile the slip in Ensenada would still be occupied and paid for to prove the yacht was out of the state for the year as agreed upon by the new owner and state for the fulfillment of the tax being not paid by the new owner. By now there must be a form that is issued in order to document the time spent north of the border that must involve some sort of an honor system and trust that the new owner and his “authorized agent” will obey the law. Much like a car’s speedometer, an hour meter can be disconnected or otherwise manipulated by devious individuals. In the interim, if the boat is observed in California waters by a property tax official, then a property tax will be levied on the new yacht for it’s first year of “offshore” existence. Yikes!

I really don’t know how this is better than the pre-existing 90-day law as it will be a monster to oversee and a big hassle for the boat owners. But, it’s proving to be a benefit to Ensenada as slip space is on a wait and see basis. Overall, slip space will be diminished on both sides of the border as yachts shuttle back and forth for “maintenance, retrofit and repair” during the next 20 months of the new statute’s effective jurisdiction.  On July 1, 2006 the whole process will be analyzed and the 90-day stay will be re-instated. Hopefully the wise lawmakers will then “just walk away” and leave the offshore delivered yacht law alone in the future after the paralyzing effects in the marine industry of this law change are realized. Meanwhile, those who bought a yacht in August and September of 2004 will have up to six months from their date of sale to take advantage of the previous 90 day statute, so we will be seeing many more of those folks before the one year folks show up. That will leave us roughly only a year and a few months of the one-year rule.


All things are difficult before they become easy.



El Niño, La Niña, NOAA

and our Fisheries

  H o t  A i r   o v e r   H o t   W a t e r


In the 1500s, fishermen who lived in South America began to wonder about a current of unusually warm water that came to their shore every few years near Christmastime. Since the fishermen believed in the birth of the Christ child at Christmas, and since they spoke Spanish, they named the hot water El Niño. Periodically, the sight of dead fish littering the water and beaches replaces the flourishing fish populations commonly found off the west coast of the Americas north and south. Unusual weather conditions occur around the globe as jet streams, storm tracks and monsoons are shifted. A warm current of water that appears every three to seven years in the eastern Pacific Ocean called El Niño causes such disarray. El Niño is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system caused by warmer than normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather and climate around the globe. La Niña is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño means The Little Boy or Christ child in Spanish. This name was used for the tendency of the phenomenon to arrive around Christmas. La Niña means The Little Girl. La Niña is sometimes called El Viejo, anti-El Niño, or simply "a cold event" or "a cold episode". El Niño is often called "a warm event". But why all the fuss anyway about some hot water in the tropical Pacific Ocean? Well, it's not just the hot water. It's also the hot air.  

NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is entrusted with the primary responsibilities of providing climatic forecasts to the Nation, and a leadership role in sponsoring El Niño and La Niña observations and research. NOAA is the 7th Corps of the U.S. Government, along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard. I know from firsthand knowledge about the work that NOAA does throughout the world, having worked as an Electronic Technician (ET) on the NOAA ship McArthur for two years doing tide survey work in the San Francisco Bay in 1980 and on the Columbia River in 1981. Derived from the work we performed, tide charts were generated for future decades.

The NOAA research ship McArthur before decommissioning in 2003 after a distinguished 37-year career performing a wide assortment of survey tasks.

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

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The Author aboard the McArthur in 1981 on the Columbia River with an audibly activated device designed to explode a bolt, thereby releasing lost scientific gear deployed to collect tide data suspended vertically with buoys from a railroad wheel used as an anchor on the sea floor. Note the last photo, which illustrates the top buoy of a deployed array being buffeted by a 5 to 6 knot current under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Among the consequences of El Niño mentioned above are increased rainfall across the southern tier of the U.S., Mexico, Central America and in Peru, causing destructive flooding in these areas along with drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. Observations of conditions in the tropical Pacific are considered essential for the prediction of short-term (a few months to 1 year) climate variations. To provide necessary data, NOAA operates a network of buoys, which measure temperature, currents and winds in the equatorial band. These buoys daily transmit data, which are available to researchers and forecasters around the world in real-time.

The easterly trade winds are driven by a surface pressure pattern of higher pressure in the eastern Pacific and lower pressure in the west. When this pressure gradient weakens, so do the trade winds. The weakened trade winds allow warmer water from the western Pacific to surge eastward, so the sea level flattens out. A large scale weakening of the trade winds and warming of the surface layers in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean characterizes El Niño occurrences. During El Niño, the trade winds relax in the central and western Pacific leading to a depression of the thermocline in the eastern Pacific, and an elevation of the thermocline in the west. This reduces the efficiency of upwelling to cool the surface and cut off the supply of nutrient rich thermocline water to surrounding affected oceanic zones. The result is a rise in sea surface temperature and a drastic decline in primary productivity, the latter of which adversely affected higher levels of the food chain, including commercial fisheries in this region. Rainfall follows the warm water eastward, with associated flooding in Peru and drought in Indonesia and Australia. The eastward displacement of the atmospheric heat source overlaying the warmest water results in large changes in the global atmospheric circulation, which in turn force changes in weather in regions far removed from the tropical Pacific. The ocean warming covers a band from 10 degrees N to 10 degrees S and extends more than 90 degrees of longitude. Typically, the warming starts late in the boreal spring or summer and builds to a peak at the end of the year, with the event usually over by the following summer. It is a quasi-periodic phenomenon with global consequences in the form of flooding, droughts, and other phenomena.

El Niño events occur irregularly at intervals of 2-7 years, although the average is about once every 3-4 years. They typically last 12-18 months, and are accompanied by swings in the Southern Oscillation, an interannual see-saw in tropical sea level pressure between the eastern and western hemispheres. During El Niño, unusually high atmospheric sea level pressures develop in the western tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, and unusually low sea level pressures develop in the southeastern tropical Pacific. The Southern Oscillation tendencies for unusually low pressures west of the date line and high pressures east of the date line have also been linked to periods of anomalously (an anomaly is the value observed during El Niño or La Niña subtracted or added from the value in a normal year) low equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures referred to as La Niña.

The trade winds serve to check the flow of warm water eastward.

  In normal, non-El Niño years the easterly trade winds of the tropics drag the surface waters of the eastern Pacific away from the coastlines of the Americas. As it moves away, the water is deflected northward (in the northern hemisphere) by the Coriolas force and southward (in the southern hemisphere), causing water to move away from the equator in both directions. Upwelling in the eastern Pacific brings colder water up from deeper levels to replace the surface water that has been dragged away. The trade winds accumulate warm surface water around Indonesia, raising the sea level roughly half a meter higher in the western Pacific. As upwelling persists, the level of the thermocline rises to shallower depths off the South American coast and is depressed in the western Pacific. The upwelled water is rich in nutrients and supports an abundance of fish and marine life. As surface water propagates westward, it is heated by the atmosphere and the sun, allowing warmer waters to accumulate in the western Pacific. The cooler water in the eastern Pacific cools the air above it, and consequently the air becomes too dense to rise and produce clouds and rain. In the western Pacific however, the overlying air is heated by the warmer waters below, destabilizing the lower atmosphere and increasing the likelihood of precipitation. This is why during most non-El Niño Years, heavy rainfall is found over the warmer waters of the western Pacific (near Indonesia) while the eastern Pacific is relatively dry. This cold water is nutrient-rich, supporting high levels of primary productivity, diverse marine ecosystems, and major fisheries.

The most recent El Niño event began in the spring months of 1997. Instrumentation placed on NOAA buoys in the Pacific Ocean after the 1982-1983 El Niño began recording abnormally high temperatures off the coast of Peru. Over the next couple of months, the strength of these anomalies grew. The anomalies grew so large by October 1997 that this El Niño had already become the strongest in the 50+ years of accurate data gathering. El Niño and La Niña events vary in strength. For example, the La Niña in 1987 was a stronger than the La Niña in 1995, and the El Niño in 1997-1998 was a very strong El Niño.

The drought effects in the Western Pacific Islands and Indonesia as well as in Mexico and Central America are the early (and sometimes constant) victims of impending El Niños. Effects caused by looming El Niños on United States’ weather are less obvious. Previous to the last El Niño in 1997-1998, the El Niño event in 1982-1983 was the strongest. Back in 1982-1983, the U.S. Gulf States and California received extreme rainfall. As the winter approached, forecasters expected excessive rainfall to occur, and indeed, portions of central and southern California suffered record-breaking rainfall amounts. Damage consisted not only of flooding, but mudslides. Some mudslides destroyed communities in a flash -- causing many casualties. Other problems could be found in the Gulf States, as severe weather was above average. Even though no one particular storm can be blamed on El Niño, many forecasters do believe the event did increase the chances for such severe weather to occur. Global climate La Niña impacts tend to be opposite those of El Niño impacts. In the tropics, ocean temperature variations in La Niña tend to be opposite those of El Niño impacts. At higher latitudes, El Niño and La Niña are among a number of factors that influence climate. However, the impacts of El Niño and La Niña at these latitudes are most clearly seen in wintertime. In the continental US, during El Niño years, temperatures in the winter are warmer than normal in the North Central States, and cooler than normal in the Southeast and the Southwest. During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast and cooler than normal in the Northwest.

The last El Niño in 1997-1998 may or may not have been stronger than previous events, scientists are still deciding. One thing that is definitely different about that El Niño is the technology that scientists are using to study it. As our new computer age takes control of analyzing the data collected and we think we have a grip on the forecasting of the next event, Mother Nature will again step in and teach us something new in our approach and sober our self-assuredness in “technology over nature.” 

The TAO support vessel and TAO buoy

We rely on real-time data from moored NOAA ocean buoys for improved detection, understanding and prediction of El Niño and La Niña.


Self-respect is the cornerstone of all virtue.







Flea Market

This huge downtown swap meet named Los Globos is Ensenada’s largest outdoor flea market. Open everyday, but on weekends you will find the best selection of interesting things you don’t need and simply must have.


Fiesta Farms Organic Herb and Flower Ranch

This site has bilingual guided herb tours of over 180 plants grown on the premises. They also offer dried flowers and herbal, garlic and chile wreaths at wholesale prices. Open Mon.-Fri. 8 am to 3:30 pm and Saturday 8 am to noon. Tours are given every Saturday 11 am to noon (US 3$) or by appointment arranged at (760) 451-0912 in the U.S. The farm is located at San Antonio de las Minas at Km 90.5 (approximately 12 miles from Ensenada) on highway 3 en route to Tecate.


Boulevard Costero

Once a sandy harbor side beach, this coastal route through Ensenada, also known as Lazaro Cardenas, offers horse drawn carriages (calandrias) which will travel you down this palm lined boulevard past the Rivera del Pacifico and the many other sights along this venue. Rides available daily 9 am to 6 pm at Costero and Macheros.


Plaza Civica

This park at Ave. Riveroll on the Blvd. Costero contains giant gold busts of three Mexican heros; Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo, and Venustiano Carranza. This park is often referred to as the “3 heads park”. You may hear Ave. Riveroll called "the 3 heads street", because the statues can be seen many blocks up the street into town, and is sometimes used as a reference to one's proximity in the downtown area. The plaza is the site of celebration on the weekends and holidays


El Malecon

This new boardwalk along the downtown waterfront from Azueta to Ave. Castillo passes the fish market, Baja Naval, and the local harbor cruise and sport fishing concerns. Relax and enjoy a Darigold ice cream and the view at the Parque Ventana al Mar (Window to the Sea Park) on one of the many benches or on the sea wall. Here you will be at the base of the huge Mexican flag pole which flies the colors of Mexico proudly. For the same reasons mentioned above, this also serves as a waypoint in describing the placement of nearby locations. Ave. Alvarado is known as "the flag street", as this landmark can be seen and utilized as a location reference almost anywhere in Ensenada, due to its tremendous size.


Gordo's, Juanito's, and Sergio's Sportsfishing

These will be found are a short walk west from Baja Naval along the El Malecon. For years, perhaps the greatest source of tourism dollars for Ensenada, these three businesses manage their own docks and a fleet of colorful craft fitted to catch "the big one".  All the popular local fish varieties can be landed, the months of June thru September being the best for fishing with whale watching from December to April. 


Chapultepec Hills

This is a panoramic view of the entire city of Ensenada. Follow Calle 2 up the hill and into an interesting architectural collection of fancy homes.


Statue of Tara and the Ecological Park

This is a huge hand painted statue symbolizing Mother Nature, a gift of peace and friendship from a Nepalese cultural organization, overlooking the city from the original site of Fort Keki from the 1930’s. Located on Calle 13 between Ave. Obregon and Moctezuma.


Parque Revolution

This is a huge city block sized park containing an interesting collection of shade trees, a Mother’s Statue, benches, child's play area, and a bandstand. The most traditional plaza in Ensenada; lively on weekends and evenings with a festive family atmosphere. Ave. Obregon between Calles 6 and 7.


San Miguel

Our favorite surf spot in past decades, now a crowded place on any day the surf is more than 3 feet. Camping, restaurant, house and trailer rental, bathrooms, hot showers and surfing at a price of a few dollars a day. Here you will find overnight camping on the beach at US $8, trailer sites with hookups at US $12 and trailers sometimes available for US $30 a night. Located at Km-99, just after you pass through the San Miguel toll gates en route to Ensenada.



         While it is not clear why this area is called Las Rosas, we surmise it is probably because a family name Rosas owned the lots here for many years. This area shares the name of the hotel which now occupies the site just before you enter Ensenada. Here you will find an incredible view of the Todos Santos Bay.  A walk along the cliffs in the ocean breeze is a relaxing and an exhilarating experience. On the rock beach, you feel insulated and separated from the busy civilization that looms nearby. Upon close inspection, you may find several signs of the old Indian civilization that lived here. Behind the highway at the top of the small hill you will discover the Cave of the Roses, which also offers a great view of the bay.  Within the cave, small pieces of Indian artifacts suggest this place was inhabited as far back as 8,000 years ago by ancient local Indians.




Museo de Historia (Museum of History)

In the north wing of the Riviera del Pacifico you will find exhibition rooms focusing on the “Native People of Baja California” and “European Explorers and Missionaries”. Open daily 9:30 am to 2 pm and from 3 to 5 pm. Donation accepted. The Rivera del Pacifico is on Blvd. Costero across from the cruise ship terminal and the Cruiseport Marina.


Museo Historico Regional (Regional History Museum)

In the 1886 military headquarters which served as the Ensenada jail until 1986, you will find a permanent display of the “People and Cultures of Meso-Americo. Open 10 am to 5 pm, closed Monday. Donations accepted. Ave. Gastelum near Paseo Calle Primera.


Ex-Aduana Maritima (Former Maritime Customs House)

Here you will find displayed various ever changing cultural and historical exhibits in one of the oldest buildings in town, built in 1887. Open Mon.-Fri. 9 am to 4 pm. Ave. Ryerson #99.


Estero Beach Museum

In chronological exhibition rooms you will find an outstanding collection of folk art and artifacts entitled “40 Centuries of Mexican Culture”. Open 9 am to 1 pm and 2-5 pm. Donations accepted. 6 miles south of Ensenada at the Estero Beach Resort.


Community Museum of the Valley of Guadelupe

In the wine rich Valle de Guadelupe exists a Russian home dating back to 1905 containing a small but interesting collection of local Indian and Russian memorabilia and artifacts. Open 9 am to 5 pm, closed Monday. Donations accepted. Across from the Monte Xanic Winery in Francisco Zarco on Highway 3 en route to Tecate.


Gallery of Perez Meillon

Authentic native Paipai and Kumiai Indian crafts by local artisans, accompanied by Tamahumara and Casas Grandes pottery. Open daily 10 am to 6 pm. Blvd. #1094-39 in the Centro Artesanal.


Galeria de la Ciudad (Gallery of the City)

Monthly exhibits of Baja California artists. Open 9 am to 6 pm. In the north wing of the Riviera del Pacifico across from the cruise ship terminal and the Cruiseport Marina.


Galeria la Esqina de Bodegas (Gallery Inside the Cellars)

Monthly exhibits of Mexican and international artists. Open daily 8 am to 10 pm, closed Sunday. Across from the Bodegas de Santo Tomas at Ave. Miramar and Calle 6.


Taller de Artisanos Indigenas (Collection of Ingenious Artisans)

Indian artist workshops working with authentic Paipai and Kumiai arts and crafts. Open Mon.-Fri. 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. At the Bodegas de Santo Tomas,  Ave. Miramar #666.


Art Gallery/Studio los Arcos

Original paintings, sculptures, fine and decorative arts by Baja California artists. Mon.-Sat. 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 10 am to 3 pm, closed Sunday. In Ejido Esteban Cantu on the road to La Bufadora on Punta Banda.


Guadalupe Gaos Gallery and Studio

Fine and decorative arts. Open Mon.-Sun. 10 am to 3 pm and from 4 to 8 pm. Hotel Bahia on Blvd. Costero across from the 3 heads park.




50 miles south of Ensenada is a small farming town named San Vicente. Here you will find an interesting Community Museum and the ruins of the San Vicente Ferrer mission established in 1780. Drive .7 miles on the signed dirt road just north of San Vicente.


At La Mision, Km. 66 on the toll road, you will find the protected adobe ruins of the Dominican mission established by Padre Luis Sales in 1787. Next to the La Mision school near the La Fonda Hotel.


The San Fernando Velicata adobe ruins of the only Franciscan mission in Baja California, established by Padre Junipero Serra in 1769 will be found 3.5 miles west of the trans-peninsular highway at Km. 114.




            When the 1930's emerged as the era of bootleg liquor, smuggling activities and gambling establishments became a staple of the economy.  At the corner of Blvd. Lazaro Cardenas and Ave. Riviera is the former Casino Riviera del Pacifico, built in the late 1920's. In it's heyday it was a famous gambling house, once managed by the boxer Jack Dempsey. The opening act in 1929 featured Bing Crosby backed by the Xavier Cugat Orchestra. The orchestra included a singer named Margarita Carmen Cansino, a Baja native later to be known as Rita Hayworth. It now can be visited in its current incarnation as a cultural center.





Ensenada has no indigenous crafts to speak of, most of the products offered for sale come from the interior of Mexico. The atmosphere is less intense than in Tijuana where a hawking jumble of hustlers are encountered at every turn. The mood is more sedate in Ensenada. Experienced True Travelers know that Ensenada is perhaps the best city along the Baja to shop. The stock of goods is abundant and the prices are lower than at the border towns, yet still offer a margin that permits a friendly bargaining dialog. After all, no one really pays the asking price in Mexico, a country renown for its enjoyment of spirited negotiation over the final sale amount.




This past three weeks a new phenomenon has greeted those living here in the marina in Ensenada. A squad of seals has taken up residence and continues daily to pursue the bait that has been their prey for this past month. They bark at each other somehow conveying a message of search and destroy and the joy of conquest. As I write this a seal is breaching, frolicking, and generally causing havoc underneath my boat buffeting it from side to side as the seal races back and forth in pursuit of the little fishes as he calls breakfast. The sound of bubbles enveloping my hull and the multi thuds of small baitfish blindly hitting my boat evading capture are another reminder that I am in the midst of a wild and beautiful neighborhood of the natural ocean environment.

Seagulls, pelicans and blue herons chase the seals through the marina hoping that a tidbit will be somehow cast their way. Indeed, last week a seal chased a ball of bait completely out of the water, which caused a few fish to land on the dock in front of a poised heron who immediately gobbled them up. A set of prehistorically rendered herons now patrol with the seals hoping for the same occurrence to again befall them, hanging out on the docks, resembling poser flamingos, often losing their cool and squawking at each other as a fight breaks out over morsels of their newfound freeloader food. Stately, waddling pelicans cruise the docks sometimes diving into the water from great heights like predatory Luftwaffa stukas. Seagulls chase each other through the sky with fishes squirming in their beaks. So, the direct result of the seals and their band of followers is the entire wildlife scene of the marina is electric with entertaining activity every new morning to accompany your daybreak coffee.

As I wrote the last line a seal darted by my hull at a speed that would threaten to rip off my rudder if the seal had torpedoed it directly, causing me to flinch as I dictate this to my computer. This all reminds me of one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year here in the marina. A brown lab was running down the dock with a fish in his mouth and followed by a flock of identically brown squawking seagulls chasing him up to the parking lot. Or the day 3 years ago when a infinitely huge amount of bait got trapped in the marina basin and were herded into a corner of our square rock jetty enclosed mini sea and were mercilessly slaughtered by a teaming collection of birds sitting on the water around the bait and sometimes extending all the way under water to capture the bait booty.

A seal just went down the entire length of my hull at such a speed and so close that I think that he may qualify as my new bottom cleaner! At the depth I am sitting in my boat, he may well have brushed my back in transit. Welcome to these new marina residents, as they contribute a new facet of interesting vitality of life to our daily harbor-life existence. 


See the photos of these animals hunting on our photo album page.






         A month ago my boat emerged from Silverton Gulch as the two boats, which resembled floating dock boxes on the either side of my boat, both left within two days of each other.  But now they’ve been replaced by a two boats that are substantially longer then the slip’s dock length due to the over whelming lack of slip space available at the Marina Coral.  These lower profile and longer boats have changed the environment blocking out my Buena Vista enjoyed when no boats are present.  So now rather than Silverton Gulch my boat is in an area now designated Mainship Gorge. But fortunately for me, my stern faces due south so my cockpit is bathed by sunlight all day long and my solar panels are not obscured from collecting the necessary sunlight to keep my refrigerator working and my beer cold. As I mentioned the moorage space here at the marina in is full; the entire marina has begun this winner completely full of yachts enjoying time here at the 90 Day Yacht Club. All the yachts purchased before October 1st will have their first six months of their existence as newly purchased yachts to be placed on the waiting list for space and reach your destination here in Ensenada. So, make plans to arrive here soon as Ensenada waits to welcome you and share a buenos dias!


The big mid-October storm caused a subtle, fading rainbow to grace the skies above Ensenada.


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And a not-so-subtle tornado-like rainbow during my days spent studying tides on the Columbia River in 1981

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