It seems like eons ago that we first arrived in San Diego from Avalon (Catalina Island) on Saturday, October 22. The overnight passage from Avalon was quiet and lovely, and most importantly, uneventful. Coming into San Diego, we rounded Point Loma, giving wide berth for the abundant kelp paddies that gum up the area, and headed for the Police docks tucked in just past the channel at Shelter Island.
We had planned to be in San Diego for a little over a week to complete the battery project, the internet project and finally the solar panel installation project (which we had not, at that point, taken off the table). But first, my parents were coming down from Sacramento to join us in celebrating Finley’s 4th birthday. We had planned to take the boys to Legoland for Finley’s birthday, and Finley being a late October birthday boy, we found that Legoland had a special event, “Brick or Treat” the weekend just prior to Halloween, fun! The boys happily donned their newly-acquired Star Wars costumes (Elliott as Kylo Ren and Finley as a Young Jedi) and hopped, skipped and jumped through Legoland’s entrance.
Aside from the typical kid tantrums, over-exhaustion and tired legs, we had a good time at Legoland. As was the case when Elliott was his age, Finley wanted nothing to do with the “scary” rides or any ride that entailed getting wet. He was perfectly happy to just watch Elliott and I (or Ryan) go on the rides and marvel at Miniland.
The week my parents were in town was otherwise filled with installation of a new drinking water line in our galley (another supposedly 1-day project that stretched into 3 full days and nights of headaches) and ordering all the parts/technology needed for the internet installation project (as well as look for a marine electrician to help with connecting the system once I had everything installed). Since we had decided to can the solar panel project, we bought ourselves a *little* time to turn to other priority boat projects (buying & installing more anchor chain, purchasing a bunch more necessary boat gear, etc).
We also carved out time to spend with our friends in Encinitas, which was lovely! The boys had an awesome time playing with their two boys (and getting a break from playing with each other all the time). After bidding farewell to my parents, we returned to Dakota and planned out the next week (or so) until we felt ready to head to Mexico.
Taking Dakota Into Mexico
As it turns out, going to Mexico on a vessel or vehicle, paperwork and preparation-wise, is no small undertaking. We needed to secure the necessary “TIP” (Temporary Import Permit) since we will be on our boat in Mexico longer than 10 days, obtain vistors visa for 180 days (immmigration), and put together a packet just for Dakota with her US registration, insurance documents, crew list, fishing licenses and copies of crew member passports. Back in our old life, this wouldn’t have been much of a problem, with easy access to high-end scanners/printers at work and at home, high-speed internet, copy machines, etc. But on the boat? Quite a different story. For example, my printer/scanner on board is great, but it doesn’t have a flatbed screen–which we needed to scan and copy our passport photos. So I needed to walk the mile or so into town (and ensure that I had all my other papers ready to go for scanning/copying/printing) to the local “Postal Annex” store and have them scan everything in (so I can quickly print copies as needed from the boat) and then make 10 copies of our “boat packet” for all Mexican port and marina entries.
Getting the TIP is also an adventure. Essentially, a TIP is required to enter Mexico (although many people obtain it at their first port of entry into the country). However, if your boat has been to Mexico within the last 10 years and the prior owner did not “cancel” their TIP upon leaving the country, you could be in quite a bind upon arrival as you fumble about trying to clear the prior TIP and file one of your own (we’ve heard this can take up to two weeks). Since our boat has cruised to Mexico before, we felt it was imperative to know whether the prior TIP was cleared (essentially by filing our own TIP application and see whether it is accepted), rather than winging it when we arrived in Ensenada. The other snafu is that you are supposed to file your TIP between 10 and 60 days prior to your arrival date, which as a sailing vessel, is a bit tough because of weather (how can we say for certain we can be there 10, 12, or 20 days prior?? Weather predicting is definitely not a certainty!)…. so we filed ours Nov 1, hoping to hear back from the Mexican TIP authority within a week (fellow cruisers recieved an email accepting their application the next day and their TIP in hand by USPS within 3 days!). Weelll… not so much. We waited. And waited. And waited. All the while getting more and more worried–was there an uncanceled TIP on our boat? And of course, there is no website or phone number to check the status of your application. We heard of a fellow boater calling the marina he was expecting to go to and seeing if they could help, so we did that.
Expecting to stay at Baja Naval in Ensenada, I phoned their office and spoke to Jose there, who told me that his guy Carlos could “maybe” go over to the CIS office within the next day. Or two. That call was on a Thursday…. when we hadn’t heard anything by the next Monday, I phoned again. Spoke to Jose. He was super nice and said they got really busy and Carlos couldn’t go over. But he would, maybe today. 🙂 And on and on this went. By Wednesday (November 9) we had decided that no matter what, we were just going to head to Ensenada on Thursday or Friday (weather permitting) and just try to deal with the TIP there (it would certainly be cheaper to dock in Ensenada than San Diego!). And every single day as we went about our preparations, errands, boat chores, life admin etc., we’d check with the front desk at Southwestern Yacht Club where we continued our stay and ask whether our TIP arrived (Sidenote: The folks at SYC were AWESOME! I highly recommend this YC if you ever find yourself in need of a guest slip in SD). And by miracle, our TIP arrived on Thursday Nov 10–WOOHOO!! Our boat was in the clear and now, with almost all of our preparations complete, we were READY TO HEAD TO MEXICO!
It’s hard to believe that two weeks flew by in San Diego. While we didn’t see much of the city, we did get to hang out with good friends we hadn’t seen in quite awhile (Thank you ND for hosting us!), celebrate Finley’s 4th year, visit with my parents a little and get allll of our boat prep done. And, while I was out with the kids one afternoon, I took them to our home when we lived in North Park in 2005 [[INSERT PIC HERE]]- What a trip down memory lane!
By the time our last night at SYC rolled around, we felt elated and grateful for everyone who helped us finally get there. We met quite a few fun and interesting characters at SYC and were the recipients of some really heartwarming help. People who didn’t know us, but heard our story, came by the boat to welcome us, see how our stay at their club was going, offered to drive us around town for various errands and finally, on our last day, offered to help us cast off our lines on our way out of the country.
I can honestly say that, on balance, I’m happy with how our time in San Diego went. Were there some tough times, tantrums (adult and kid!), self-imposed timeouts and alone times? Sure. But we continued to work on tweaking our systems to figure out how we do this “life afloat” thing. 🙂 How can we move through and within each other’s spaces successfully and in ways that each family member can tolerate (and enjoy!)? How can we find respectful ways of living with each other 100% of the time? (and I mean 100 PERCENT!) And how can we do so with a little more grace, a little less steam and in a way that is going to make our experience, by and large, a positive one? These are questions that we continue to work through.