Logbook: Summer 2003 through Spring 2004
For photos of "fun stuff" from Ensenada, click here - Ensenada Fun Photos
For photos of boat projects completed in Ensenada, click here - Ensenada Boat Refit
Ensenada is located approximately 75 miles south of San Diego. With over 300,000 residents, it is the third largest town on the Baja California peninsula. The major industries in Ensenada are tourism (it's a cruise ship port), fishing and agriculture.
We lived on Slip Away in the Baja Naval Marina, which is located adjacent to downtown. Most everything we needed was a short walk from the boat - grocery stores, a fresh fish market, tortillarias, a beer store (very important!), taco stands, excellent restaurants, an internet cafe, hardware stores and a brand-new movie theatre.
We found the Mexican people to be extremely warm and friendly. The folks at Baja Naval became good friends, and we were very sad to say good-bye to them. The local people of Ensenada made us feel very welcome. We were always greeted with a smile of recognition at the businesses we frequented. Although there was a language barrier, we managed to communicate. Our Spanish improved the longer we were there, but we've still got a long way to go.
One nice benefit to living in Ensenada was a cost of living significantly less than in the U.S. This was a good thing since we were now living on our "retirement budget." Our grocery bill was cut in half. Fresh fish from the fish market was about $2-3/pound for tuna, halibut or sea bass. Movies at the brand-new theatre (mostly recent releases in English with Spanish subtitles) were $3.50/per person, but $2.50 for matinees and all day Wednesday. ("Finding Nemo," however, was in Spanish; we didn't understand much of the dialogue, but we could follow the story line). Our favorite restaurant for an "expensive" dinner was "Mahi Mahi" which served outstanding fresh seafood. Dinner for the two of us (including a beer each), usually cost us $25-30 total. Lunch at a taco stand cost about $5 for the two of us. We also found very competent and inexpensive medical and dental services. We had our teeth cleaned for $20/person, and we received a very thorough screening by a dermatologist for $35/person.
The food in Ensenada was excellent. The fresh tortillas were so good that Rich hardly ever ate bread. Our favorite breakfast restaurant "Mi Kaza" served the best huevos rancheros we've ever eaten. This area is known for fish tacos, and we were frequent visitors to a couple of fish taco stands. We also bought great home-made tamales from a guy who walked around town selling them out of a 5-gallon bucket.
To counteract the calories from all this tasty (and very fattening) food, there was a hill we liked to hike, which offered great views of the port. Although Rich didn't have to worry about gaining weight, he enjoyed the exercise. (The above photo was taken from that hill.)
There was a great community of cruisers in Ensenada, and we got together on a regular basis for happy hours and pot-lucks. It was an interesting mix of people, with ages ranging from 20-something to 70-something, some still working and some retired, and a extremely wide variety of backgrounds. We had a VHF radio "net" (like a talk show) each morning, where we shared ideas on boat projects, got weather reports and offered recommendations on local businesses and services.
We had a car during most of our time in Ensenada, but we sold it a few months before we left. It was fairly easy to get around without a car, so we didn't use it much in town. We did use the car to go to San Diego for boat supplies and parts because those types of things were more expensive in Ensenada and not as readily available. The drive to San Diego was 1 1/2 hours via a toll highway - not a bad trip unless the border crossing is backed up.
Some of our friends from Southern California ventured down to Ensenada to visit us. In addition to showing them around downtown, we visited the Guadalupe wine valley a few miles to the north and a blow-hole ("La Bufadora") a few miles south.
Another benefit of staying a year in Ensenada was that we had the opportunity to enjoy several events and celebrations in this city. Mexico has a number of state celebrations with parades and parties. Every Spring and Fall, there is the Rosarito-to-Ensenada 50-mile bike ride, which brings about 10,000 cyclists into town. For Carnival/Mardi Gras, Ensenada shuts down their main street in downtown and throws quite a party. Also, every April, there is a yacht race from Newport Beach, California, to Ensenada. With about 500 boats participating, it is the largest international yacht race in the world.
The weather in Ensenada was similar to Southern California, although a few degrees cooler due to an underwater canyon that feeds colder water into the area. Summer was dry and pleasant, with daytime temps usually in the low to mid 70's, and evening temps in the low 60's. Winter is the rainy season, and temps were chilly - 50's to 60's in the daytime, 40's at night. It didn't rain often, but we did have a couple of storms that brought several inches of rain. The ocean was cold (50's to 60's), so it wasn't inviting to swim.