The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada
Volume 3 , Number 9
A true traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arrival®
True Traveler Publishing
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FROM THE HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT SEPTEMBER 2005
As of December 31, 2006 if you return from Mexico by boat or plane you will be required to have a current U.S. passport. And as of December 31, 2007 you will need to have a passport to return by land to the U.S. from Mexico. Contact your local post office for information about how you can obtain or renew your passport in order to comply with the new laws.
THE ONGOING FALLACY THAT THE U.S. HAS THE CHEAPEST FUEL ON THE PLANET
Dateline 8-30-2005… Today I was visiting one of the San Diego West Marine stores that carry my books and had a chat with a 28-year veteran top-ranking Officer in the Navy anti-terrorist group assigned to protect San Diego from the bad guys. Among our various topics of discussion he related to me that he had served drug interdiction duty in Columbia where his orders were to never board a vessel in question for search, but if the situation deemed necessary he was empowered to blow the suspect vessel out of the water. This he said he did quite a few times during his deployment there!
He also shared that his technical powers had a set of Big Eyes the could paint and mark vessels 120 mile to the north, west and south; but if a vessel passed Customs en route from Mexico to the US, that it is not his responsibility to enforce the law of Customs compliance, but it is that of the Customs agents and Coast Guard that were not similarly equipped and perhaps would not detect such activity.
This guy was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and so humble and unassuming in the responsibility he had in securing such a strategic military port. He is in charge of a vast flotilla of various small (and fast) craft in both the San Diego and Mission Bays. He told me an interesting story about a recently rigged and enclosed flatbed rental truck with Dubai license plates and a load of fertilizer and chemicals connected by gated valve hoses as a simulation of a home made bomb to test how close he can get through security to the Aircraft Carrier Ronald Reagan. Those troops that are negligent in their duty and may let him through are subject to a re-re-re-hash of their training to painful personal levels of punishing fatigue and humiliation within their fellow security personnel ranks. Whether he wears a turban or not during that exercise, I forgot to ask.
The subject of the cost of fuel came up, me mentioning that regular gas (called Premium in Mexico) was still only $2.50 a gallon in Mexico as compared to closer to $3.00 that day in San Diego. Mexico has a low octane fuel called Magma that is only $2.17 as of this day but that fuel is of very inferior grade and not suggested. The Navy Officer said his boats were paying $3.50 a gallon in both bays for diesel!!! The freaking Navy doesn’t even get a good deal or have their own fuel docks at a better price than commercial…go figure. The Officer was quite interested when I told him the cost of diesel at my Marina in Mexico was still only $1.72 a gallon!!! Of course that is at the Coral Marina just west of Ensenada, the only proper fuel dock in the Ensenada area (you can arrange to take on fuel from 50 gallon fuel drums in the port of Ensenada, but what a royal hassle!). When I retuned to Mexico, Fito, the dock master at the Coral, said they had fueled a big boat with 5,000 gallons the previous day. Imagine that Captain’s savings over north of the border prices. It’s interesting to note, Pemex (the oil company of Mexico) only varies the cost of their fuel a factor of plus or minus .5% at the first of every month. So there is none of the uncontrolled fast upward spirilization of fuel pricing and slow downward back to civilized pricing as in the States.
Our Military minded man then said it would be cheaper to run all those fast boats in his command down to the Coral for a day of searching the sea for terroristas, fueling his boats, and enjoying a cerveza on a Coral Hotel veranda than pay the fuel pirates in San Diego. Being a patriot of sorts, to the policy of enjoying life and following your True Traveling spirit, I didn’t mentioned the dereliction of duty involved in that proposed readjustment of Navy fueling policy, but of course encouraged him and his band of swabby mariners to stop by my boat and say Holla! while you are visiting. But meanwhile, who would be guarding the Bays of San Diego- the Customs crew and Coasties? Ahrggg…
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See our archived March 2004 “Cheaper Gas Now in Mexico” article about the last time this gas price inversion occurred.
BAJA MAMA’S FINE DINING AND THE BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH IN THE ENSENADA AREA
Do you like fresh oysters, clams and crabmeat? Do you also have an affinity for excellent Mexican pastries with a made to order omelette? How about adding a healthy selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and dips to compliment your meal? Do you enjoy the company of other likeminded folks celebrating the beauty of the day and the Ensenada area? All the while savoring perhaps the best biscuits and gravy I have ever experienced keeps calling you back for another serving. Would you like to have an all you can eat Sunday brunch for 10$ that includes all of the above plus a magnificent view of the Todos Santos Bay, Islands, and the Punta Banda ridge? Well my friend out there in Cyber Ville, Baja Mama’s Restaurant is definitely the place for you.
More a gathering at a treasured friends house than a restaurant, this place will charm you with not only the generous board of fare, but perhaps more importantly the new people you will meet and blessings you will delight in sharing together. After all, isn’t that what Sunday is all about, a day of rest and exaltation in the good lives we all are able to share? And yes, you will need to rest after this generous feed. You can grab a book in the new library facing the beach, walk the beach, or just relax in the company of your new acquaintances. Dogs are welcome here and they too will look forward to Sunday as you will after visiting Linda, Fred, Mike and their friendly cast of helpers.
Baja Mama’s is located just off the road to the Blow Hole or La Bufadora (see our newly posted photos of La Bufadora on our photo page) 20 miles south from Ensenada on the sand spit that extends out into the Todos Santos Bay. Make the right turn at the “Y” split in the road as you pass out of Maneadero en route to the wine country of Santo Tomas and on to La Paz and the south cape of the Baja peninsula. Six tenths of mile after you cross the second massive speed bump you will see a white sign on the right hand side of the road marked “AGUACALIENTE”. Make a right on this road, some of which is paved. Initially the road is hard packed dirt followed by a short dirt windy section that navigates you across a usually dry wash area. The area from Estero Beach to this point is all enclosed estuary so you bird watches will probably be navigating by binocular. After the occupied guard shack (just wave at this guy as he is just there to keep out the bad guys which you obviously are not) you will see one of the yellow Baja Mama’s signs guiding you to turn left toward the beach and after a short uphill dirt road you will see another sign directing you right to the restaurant a short distance down the road on your left and on the beach.
This past weekend we took a fishing buddy that has definitely been around the block a few times and is a hardened Baja vet. Knowing the area, the available oyster, clam and crab population, we were interested as to his response to the feed. 3 buckets of clamshells later he was still smiling broadly and struggling with the urge to go back for more! These tasty treats are brought up from 100 miles south farmed from San Quintin where the water is much cleaner and the harvest much more pure of the pollutants up north. Oh, and yes for 10 bucks this is an all you can eat brunch establishment; we figured our buddy ate more than his share at that price plus had a serving of his own custom omelette and all the refreshment he could drink. I told Baha Mama he’d have to find his own way out there next time! No worries as she gets a kick out of making sure all are fed righteously and all the food is consumed by the end of the day.
Linda, aka Baja Mama is you hostess, Fred, her husband and greeter, and Mike, their son and cook will all basically “Make Your Day”. This custom of serving started when they lived in Michigan. Weekly informal gatherings of families at their house grew to a scope that they were forced to develop the talent they now share for making all feel at home and comfortably well fed.
Visit them Sunday for brunch from 10 am to 4 or so in the afternoon (there is really no definite closing time on Sundays) and for dinner from Monday to Saturday from 5pm to 10pm. Visit the little gift shop while you are there and ask for and buy a copy of our book!There are a few small hotels near by if you want to make a whole night stay of your visit to this beautiful area of the Ensenada panorama. See our article in the January 2004 Newsletter entitled “Road Trip to San Quintin” and October 2004 Newsletter about the history of San Quintin. Read about the history of this beautiful agricultural area of Punta Banda in our January 2005 Newsletter.
Below is a satellite map illustrating how to get to Baja Mama's from Ensenada
IS RED TIDE?
Since this past May we have experienced a massive red tide occurrence here in the waters of Ensenada within the Bahia Todos Santos. Unfortunately this has caused the death of the fish in these polluted aquatic regions due to the lack of oxygen necessary to support the marine ecosystem. This has resulted in a surge in the number of and variety of the birds in the marinas and harbor as typically shore side sea birds are just hanging out always looking for a free handout whether it be from a disaster causing dead fish to float to the surface or a full trash can being left open. Since I was a youth and a surf gremmie in San Diego I have never seen such a long lasting and concentrated red tide. This caused me to further research this occurrence. If you have read my previous newsletters you may have noticed this “What is” series of articles about various subjects that I have wondered about and personally wanted to learn more about. Lucky for you, they end up in my newsletters; I hope you have enjoyed these fact-finding essays…
A red tide or algal bloom is a relatively rapid increase in the population of (usually) phytoplankton algae in an estuarine or marine eco system. Harmful algae are microscopic, single-celled plants that live in the sea. Most species of algae or phytoplankton are not harmful and serve as the energy producers at the base of the food web, without which higher forms of life on this planet would not exist. Typically only one or a few species are involved and the bloom is recognized by discoloration of the water resulting from the high density of pigmented cells. Although there is no officially recognized threshold level, algae are unlikely to be considered to be blooming unless more than 10,000 cells per milliliter occur. Algal bloom concentrations may reach millions of cells per milliliter. Colors observed are green, yellowish-brown, or red.
The excessive growth of algae may disrupt higher links of the local food web. Algae that die and sink to the bottom stimulate growth of decomposers, especially bacteria. Decomposition can result in the depletion of oxygen in the deeper water layers, and these conditions may result in fish kills or replacement with less valuable species more tolerant of higher phosphorus and lower oxygen levels. Deoxygenation also may cause chemical changes in the mud on the bottom, lowering the redox value of the sediment, releasing chemicals and toxic gases. All these changes further accelerate the eutrophication of the aquatic ecosystem.
Algal blooms may also be of concern as some species of algae produce neurotoxins. At the high concentrations reached during blooms, these may cause death if affected water is ingested. Algal blooms are monitored using biomass measurements coupled with the examination of species present. A widely used measure of algal and cyanobacterial biomass is the chlorophyll concentration.
Coastal pollution produced by humans appears to be a causal factor in red tides in some parts of the world, but red tides also occur in places where there are no associated human activities. Some red tides produce large quantities of toxins, which kill fish and are accumulated by filter feeders. This bioaccumulation of toxins causes bivalves – like oysters and clams – collected in areas affected by algal blooms to be potentially dangerous for human consumption.
Occasionally, the algae grow very fast or "bloom" and accumulate
into dense, visible patches near the surface of the water. "Red
Tide" is a common name for such a phenomenon where certain
phytoplankton species contain reddish pigments and "bloom".
of the species that kills without toxins, like this Chaetoceros
species above which has spines with serrated edges which can lodge in fish
gill tissues, causing irritation, defeating the production of mucous, and
Human Illness Associated with Harmful
Man is exposed principally to the naturally occurring toxins produced by harmful algae through the consumption of contaminated seafood products. The most significant public health problems caused by harmful algae are listed below.
Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP)
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP)
Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP)
Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP)
Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)
Each of these syndromes are caused by different species of toxic algae which occur in various coastal waters of the US and the world. With the increase in interstate and international transport of seafood, as well as international travel by seafood consumers, there are virtually no human populations that are free of risk. Since 1978, illnesses in the US due to natural algal toxins have included PSP, NSP, CFP, and ASP. No incidents of DSP have yet been verified in this country. Although records are incomplete because reporting to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is voluntary, evidence indicates that ciguatera was responsible for about half of all seafood intoxications. A growing body of evidence indicates that incidents of ASP are on the increase and that DSP may shortly make its debut in the United States, since the causative organisms occur throughout the temperate coastal waters of the US.
Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP)
causative organisms: Pseudo-nitzschia sp.
toxin produced: Domoic AcidASP can be a life-threatening syndrome. It is characterized by both gastrointestinal and neurological disorders (Bates et al., 1989). Gastroenteritis usually develops within 24 hours of the consumption of toxic shellfish; symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. In severe cases, neurological symptoms also appear, usually within 48 hours of toxic shellfish consumption. These symptoms include dizziness, headache, seizures, disorientation, short-term memory loss, respiratory difficulty, and coma. In 1987, four victims died after consuming toxic mussels from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Since that time, Canadian authorities have monitored both the water column for the presence of the causative diatom, and shellfish for the presence of the toxin, domoic acid. Shellfish beds are closed to harvesting when the domoic acid concentration reaches 20 µg/g shellfish meat. Fish and crab viscera can also contain domoic acid, so the risk to human consumers and animals in the marine food chain is more significant than previously believed.
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP)
causative organisms: Gambierdiscus toxicus, Prorocentrum spp., Ostreopsis spp., Coolia monotis, Thecadinium sp. and Amphidinium carterae
toxins produced: Ciguatoxin/MaitotoxinCFP produces gastrointestinal, neurological, and cardiovascular symptoms. Generally, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain occur initially, followed by neurological dysfunction including reversal of temperature sensation, muscular aches, dizziness, anxiety, sweating, and a numbness and tingling of the mouth and digits. Paralysis and death have been documented, but symptoms are usually less severe although debilitating (Miller, 1991). Recovery time is variable, and may take weeks, months, or years. Rapid treatment (within 24 hours) with manitol is reported to relieve some symptoms. There is no antidote, supportive therapy is the rule, and survivors recover. Absolute prevention of intoxication depends upon complete abstinence from eating any tropical reef fish, since there is currently no easy way to measure routinely ciguatoxin or maitotoxin in any seafood product prior to consumption.
Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP)
causative organisms: Dinophysis sp.
toxin produced: Okadaic AcidDSP produces gastrointestinal symptoms, usually beginning within 30 minutes to a few hours after consumption of toxic shellfish (Yasumoto and Murato, 1990). The illness, which is not fatal, is characterized by incapacitating diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and chills. Recovery occurs within three days, with or without medical treatment.
Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP)
causative organism: Karenia brevis
toxins produced: BrevetoxinsNSP produces an intoxication syndrome nearly identical to that of ciguatera. In this case, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms predominate. In addition, formation of toxic aerosols by wave action can produce respiratory asthma-like symptoms. No deaths have been reported and the syndrome is less severe than ciguatera, but nevertheless debilitating. Unlike ciguatera, recovery is generally complete in a few days. Monitoring programs (based on K. brevis cell counts) generally suffice for preventing human intoxication, except when officials are caught off-guard in previously unaffected areas.
Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)
causative organisms: Alexandrium spp.,Gymnodinium catenatum, Pyrodinium bahamense
toxins produced: Saxitoxins
PSP, like ASP, is a life threatening syndrome. Symptoms are purely neurological and their onset is rapid. Duration of effects is a few days in non-lethal cases. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, and burning of the perioral region, ataxia, giddiness, drowsiness, fever, rash, and staggering. The most severe cases result in respiratory arrest within 24 hours of consumption of the toxic shellfish. If the patient is not breathing or if a pulse is not detected, artificial respiration and CPR may be needed as first aid. There is no antidote, supportive therapy is the rule and survivors recover fully. PSP is prevented by large-scale proactive monitoring programs (assessing toxin levels in mussels, oysters, scallops, clams) and rapid closures to harvest of suspect or demonstrated toxic areas.
Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone
The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone is a seasonal phenomena occurring in the northern Gulf of Mexico, from the mouth of the Mississippi River to beyond the Texas border. It is more commonly referred to as the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, because oxygen levels within the zone are too low to support marine life. The Dead Zone was first recorded in the early 1970's. It originally occurred every two to three years, but now occurs annually. In the summer of 1999 the Dead Zone reached its peak, encompassing 7,728 square miles. Hopefully we won’t see this happen here annually in Northern Baja as this current red tide has affected the local fisheries and the general health of the local environment and economy.*Post Script 8-31-2005- As of the publishing of this Newsletter I am happy to report that the water has now been restored to its natural blue green color and schools of fish are now swimming in our little marina sea here at the Coral Marina. The Stephen King brown and red tidewater and floating dead fish are gone and hopefully won’t soon return.
THE SIERRA DE LA LAGUNA
The highway that transverses the Baja between Ensenada and La Paz must wind from east to west and coast to coast cross the peninsula due to the many mountain ranges that prohibit a direct path south. Between these ranges are the vast deserts and river valleys that define the majestic Baja topography. These huge sierra chains that bar a direct route south create entire coastlines along the Sea of Cortez that are only approachable by boat.
The Sierra de la Gigante, Sierra de Juarez, and Sierra Pinta are among the natural earth wonders of this area of our life environment. Perhaps the most interesting and diverse of all the sierras along the Baja is the Sierra de la Laguna. This high wilderness is home to at least 400 varieties of tropical, desert and mountain plant species and annually records over 35 inches of rainfall, an amazing statistic that exceeds the amount of rain that falls on Seattle, Washington!
Located just south of La Paz and extending south to the Cape of Baja California, most of the rain falls here during the monsoon season, from July to November. Much of the year the Pacific fog will reach far inland and cover this area; this combined moisture of rain and fog creates what is termed a microclimate that preserves a “relic environment”. The region is so termed because it is an isolated area that has preserved rare plants that have survived from a time earth antiquities ago, before Baja became the desert climate that we now enjoy. Here among jagged granite peaks a biological diversity found nowhere else in North America is found.
Deer co-exist among predatory mountain lions and coyotes. A collection of smaller species including a tree frog found only in this remote area reside without the interference of pollution and man made annoyance. The higher slopes feature areas called “hummingbird flower forests” due to the fact that hundreds of kinds of hummingbirds winter here in large numbers. Palms, wild roses, madrone trees, oaks, cacti and yucca plants, strawberries and wild grapes, marigolds and Spanish moss are all to be found within this panorama of natural beauty.
Hopefully this wondrous area will someday be declared a national
park. The proposed diversion of fresh water to the growing Los Cabos
population threatens to put stress on this unique and fragile ecosystem,
we hope that this project will be denied and this Mexican national
treasure’s beauties will be preserved. Hikes into this area are
multi-day adventures and should be navigated with an experienced guide.
Mule trips can be arranged in nearby Santiago.
From the forthcoming “90 Day Yacht Club Guide to La Paz and the Sea of Cortez” currently in development.
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