All posts by Eddie Smit-Jens

Navigating Mexian Food Regulations for Sailors

There’s often confusion among sailors about Mexican regulations on food when entering or leaving the country. The guidelines for what’s permissible are not clear and there isn’t a official Mexican government website but look at https://embamex.sre.gob.mx/finlandia/index.php/traveling/customs-information

Generally, fresh or frozen meat, fish, seeds, and fresh produce are prohibited. Processed or canned items are acceptable. Homemade goods are not accepted. Pork meat is always confiscated.

Check-in Regulations

Checking in from the North, such as in Ensenada on the Pacific side, is straightforward with no physical inspection and minimal paperwork. However, entering from the South, like in Chiapas, involves stricter procedures. Expect a thorough inspection, including a drug-sniffing dog, due to concerns about plant diseases and pests from Central America. Items like eggs, nuts, meat, and fresh produce will be confiscated. It’s advisable not to provision in El Salvador for Frans Polynesia with future stops in Mexico. Fortunately, supermarkets like Soriana, Walmart, and Sam’s Club are readily available in Chiapas.

Check-out Regulations

When departing Mexico for destinations like Galapagos or French Polynesia, provisioning in Chiapas with packaged goods, fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, dairy, and liquor poses no issues. While there’s a physical inspection, it mainly focuses on contraband like drugs or human trafficking.

If heading to El Salvador, Costa Rica, or Panama, their is not much regulations, particularly regulations and Mexico is cheap.

Tips for Chiapas Departure

When checking out in Chiapas, attention to detail is crucial. Officials are stringent and scrutinize forms closely, even asking for a captain’s license. Ensure all documents are in order, and be prepared to clarify any discrepancies. Regarding the dinghy and Temporary Import Permit (T.I.P.), customs officials had a discussion with themselves. The outcome is: Dinghies shorter than 4.5 meters are considered part of the sailboat and do not require a separate T.I.P. Provide proof of ownership, such as purchase receipts or insurance papers or formal registration documents, to expedite the process.

Lastly, exercise caution when sharing information on social media platforms and messaging apps to avoid misinformation. I shaw some pretty wild statements, just partly true.

Bahia in Baja California (Sur)

Our trip into Mexico is one big adventure of beautiful bays and beaches, the Bahia ‘s. Kiskadee is doing super. Low draft, 4 feet, double engines, anchor bridle and a good anchor alarm (Vesper Cortex) Our sailing dates were 11 November to 13 December, after the Bajahaha rally. So most of these huge anchorages where empty or with one or two other boats.

Itinerary

For those of you intending to sail this bahia route, this is our itinerary: Puerto Santo Tomas – Bahia de San Quintin – Bahia Tortugas – Bahia Santa Maria – Cabo San Lucas bay – Marina San Jose de Cabo – Los Frailes – Bahia de los Muertos – Isla Partida – Isla Espiritu Santo – El Merito Cove – La Paz Channel – Punta Gaviotas.

Our itinerary down south through Baja California (Sur)

Most bahia’s are fine anchorages with shelter in the winter season . The dominant wind direction is North to North-West. We have many favorites and a few disappointments, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose de Cabo are to expensive and offers little. I don’t know why La Paz is called the cruisers paradise, anchorage in the channel is wind against current, filthy and noisy. We did some groceries and bought new zinc and left. Back to the coves and inlets just south of it. So much better and almost empty.

Nautical Information on spots

I have been searching for quite some time what the right site/app is to share nautical Information on spots and decided to use Noforeignland. Its not restricted, open. As an active sailor do register (follow SV Kiskadee and become a supporter) As a spectator follow us at https://www.noforeignland.com/boat/5287247765045248 So our electronic presence is on Facebook, this website and on Noforeignland. No more no less.

Bahia

So sailing south is fine and the promise of better temperatures, 20 Celsius and going up, helps. Remember, from October on every 1.000 NM south of B.C. Canada you gain 3 degrees Celsius. We are now close to 30.

High Lights

The islands of Partida and Espiritu Santo are incredible. We spent not enough time in the different bays. This is by far the spot with the clearest water, everywhere rocks, reefs and fish to snorkel too. Good anchorage and well protected. From bay to bay takes 1 or 2 hours of motor sailing.

Our next stop is Mazatlan on the main land.

Going South into Mexico

Coming from BC Canada, passing the Pacific Coast of US, we are now in Mexico. And every 1.000 NM the temperature, air and sea, is getting warmer. We do like it. Although I don’t know if it’s cultural or just the temperature, but people are outspoken, friendly and Spanish is a beautiful language. Cuando se habla rápido, es difícil entender.

Viva la Mexico

Ensenada

We first docked at Hotel Coral Marina in in Ensenada. It came with a pool and whirl-tub, nice restaurant, fuel dock. And across the street of the Marina a big grocery/supermarket, Soriana. We like the Mexican supermarkets for there one stop shopping, from groceries to my beloved yogurts, milk, meat, cleaning products, pasta, cans, frozen foods, wine and even booz, a good rum, gin or tequila. Because we are a dry boat, we enjoy a nice cocktail at anchor or in the marina.

The marina offers us a payed service to help us check-in into Mexico and we gladly accepted it. A typical Mexican thing is the TIP, a temporary, 10 years, import permit for your boat. The other thing are the Aviso de Arribo and de Salida, with you need in every port with a Port Captain.

On the first turn into the docks, no propulsion on my Port engine. My folding prop was needle rapped, ergo closed, with kelp.

Follow Sailors

In every marina you meet new people on boats, friendly, most experienced. Always with a word of advise and a strong story of high seas and strong winds just around the corner. And the numbers are really getting big as its all in feet.

The ongoing feet-meters, liters-US gallons, phantoms and fl-oz. confusion continues. Even the thread of bolts and nuts is different. And indeed SV Kiskadee is a metric boat. Hilarious, when my crew member looking at the Navionics chart in disbelief because he interrupted my 2 meters depth as 2 feet… So approaching a dock, it makes a lot of difference 3 feet or 3 meters… Conversion is easy, with the exception of F to C. So we know below 65 is cold and above 73F is nice. Enjoy

The first pictures of Mexico.

Bars, bars, bar

Sailing down the Pacific Coast of the US. Bars, bars, bars. Is this post about drinking? No, it is about waves, jetties and shallow water when entering a bay, harbor or marina. We started going south from B.C. Canada toward Mexico at the first week of October. That is certainly the beginning of autumn with a different weather pattern. With a pro dominant Northern wind which is oké when going South. The bad thing, there are more depressions with high winds and a North East direction. The wind isn’t the bad aspect, it’s the waves rolling onto the shore that is the factor to be aware off.

So the Pacific is deep, 1000 meters and beyond and it goes back to zero in 30 NM. When entering a harbor, marina on the west coast in the state of Washington, Oregon or California it’s usual a shallow bay or cove, protected by side jetties, partly submerged. Sometimes a canal, 20-30 feet deep, dredged. The entrance is called a bar…..

So the buildup of waves, rolling in from the west, can be 12-18 feet and then also breaking and rolling. That is a scary thing to look at and definitely not something you want to be in.

Website and Coast Guard for Bars

So information is key, you can’t go and have a look and be safe at the same time. Luckily their is a site for Bar Observations (by the Portland Meteo Office). And almost every harbor has a local coast guard with info on VHF 22A. (Switch your marifon from International to US)

A lot off actual data can be retrieved from NOAA buoys. Look at the app NOAA Bouy Reports in Google or Apple store. A graphical interface makes things so much easier.

Strategy for Bars

The down site, it takes a week before clearing up, the sea needs at least 2 days to calm down. And then you need 2,5 days for your next 300 NM south and the next harbor. So if the bar is open hop on the back a southwards going depression and sneak in the next harbor before the next depression arrives. It’s all about “reading” the weather predictions.

When 40-60 NM outside the coast, waves are back to 6-9 feet (2-3 meter) with a wavelength of 12-15 seconds. And in the same direction as the 15-20 knots of wind. So for a Seawind catamaran that is more or less a “perfect” combination. We like the sound of riding down a wave, the goorgeling sound of water under the bridge deck, salon floor. When the wind dies down, waves are back to 3 feet.

Most Harbors in WA and OR are fishery harbors, we visited Port Angeles, Grays Harbor/Westport, Goos Bay/Charleston, Bodega Bay. In general enter at slack tide, high water. For instance Bodega Bay is really shallow. We spent 13 days at Westport, partly because we did a 4 days road trip to Eugene, but mostly because the bar was closed. We skipped the Columbia river, Astoria. Notoriously difficult at high winds and wicked currents.

San Fransisco Bay

More south we stopped at San Fransisco Bay, Santa Barbara and Catalina Harbor. More relaxed, better temperature. San Fransisco Bay is special because of the Golden Gate bridge crossing. We came in by night, because of the slack tide we needed and a full moon. We anchored down town. I appreciated the site of Patrick Twohy with a top recommendation for Aqautic Park.

In Santa Barbara the main thing beside relaxing and eating out, aka anything else then fish and chips, was a visit to the West Marine shop. Needed a few things including a new barber hauler line for my Jib.

Catalina Harbor is a unplanned stop because of a gail warning of the Coast Guard. So some extra time on a nice anchorage. Mexico here we come ….

Look at the Photo Gallery for more pictures.

Boat Work in Canada

After our crossing to the Pacific Coast with a lot of mileage and severe weather, we where in need of some maintenance and repairs, spare parts and improvements.

James Conan, ronan.associates-at-gmail the Canadian representative of the Seattle Seawind dealership contacted us and helped us with all kinds of contacts, advice, arrangements etc. Thanks James

James arranged a meeting with Philbrooks Boatyard (PB) in Van Isle Marina at Sidney B.C. Our liancé, project manager is Daniel Thompson, daniel.thompson-at-philbrooks-period-com, who talked us through our wishes, helped us with the planning, did the estimates and introduced us to a lot of his fantastic colleges etc. etc. A few tips and tricks to maximize the experience:

  1. Prepare your work list in advance and send it to Daniel at least two weeks before arriving in Canada, 
  2. Make sure there is room in the PB planning, so if you arrive at Van Isle Marina, they can start right away,
  3. If you want to apply for the work to be tax free, (12% in summer 2023)
    • you need to be a non-Canadian vessel;
    • Van Isle Marina must be your first port of entrance, yes there is a customs dock;
    • ask PB to obtain the waiver before starting any work,
  4. Any expertise not available, like a certified gas technician, will be arranged by PB;
  5. You can ‘shop’ at the PB supply room. Marcus, the guy in charge, is a walking encyclopedia, well connected to any supplier. He managed to find my a few exotic Lewmar parts, busses for my water pump, soft cradle for my outboard etc etc.
  6. It helps if you are on board and helps with the jobs, to build up your own knowledge, less hours and expectations-execution, results close to each other.

We like the Canadian way of doing things. Knowledgeably, skilled, no language barrier, hourly rates are better than US WA rates, good work ethics, friendly.

We like Sidney B.C because their are 2 Chandleries, A Yanmar dealer, UK  sails for  a repair and Blackline, also a Boatyard with a rigging department to help us with some issues

We liked PB for their work and reasonable docking prices. We did some extra projects.

We like Sidney B.C. because Victoria Int. Airport is extually in Sidney, easy bus right to Victoria, shops, grocery, a few nice restaurants etc. And the summer weather in B.C. is top. For us none US/Canadian buying a local (prepaid) SIM made everything so much easier in communication. From calling a cab to a reservation. 

 It’s a great place to start some motor-sailing the famous Gulf Islands and surroundings.

Cruising in B.C. Canada

At the end of this beautiful summer we are cruising in the B.C. area, East coast of Vancouver Island. The first two months of our journey where special, as in not moving around. So after arriving at the Victoria Customs Dock, we docked in Maple Bay Marina and took a 12 days break to the NL. There after we moved to Van Isle Marina where we spend 5 weeks at the dock of the Philbrooks Boatyard.

And now we are cruising for 6 weeks in B.C. until our visa expires at the end of September 2023. An overview of our route and some impressions. In general we had lovely warm weather, with little wind and less rain. The temperatures at night are slowly dropping to 10C. Winter is coming.

  • Jacobs ladder at Nanaimo
  • View on Nanaimo
  • Anchored at Newcastle, Mark Bay
  • Heavy equipement on it's way too an island
  • Lighttower at Entrance Island
  • All alone in an inlet on Prevost Island
  • Bus to Humingbird Restaurant, Galiano Island
  • Montaque Harbor marine park
  • Anchorge at Montaque Harbor
  • Winter Cove at Saturna Island
  • Church Cove, Saturna
  • Kelp
  • Clean your panels or your capacity decreases
  • Port Browing North Pender
  • Otter Bay Harbor North Pender
  • Stern Tie 25 mtr from shore, Royal Cove Portland Island

Royal Cove

It’s on the North, more isolated, side of Portland Island. Uninhabited and completely a National Park. I went for a hike. Pretty easy an a sunny day. But It would be partly intermediate on a wet day. I discovered the Parks Canada App, useful.

  • Royal Cove at Portland Island B.C.
  • Stern Tie 25 mtr from shore, Royal Cove Portland Island

Butchart Gardens

Lovely garden and with a dedicated mooring in Butchart Cove. Tod’s Inlet is around the corner and a popular anchor place with a soft muddy bottom. The inlet was crowded and I could not use enough chain so our anchor keeps dragging. We see a lot of people arriving late, grep a private mooring and leave early in the morning. In Angler’s Anchorage Marina their is Blue’s Bayou Cafe, nice for drinks and a meal. Park your dinghy at the public dinghy dock, left off the marina.

  • Back enterance of Butchart Garden
  • Angler's Anchorage Marina at Brentwood Bay
  • Mooring in Butchart Cove
  • Blue's Bayou Cafe

Van Isle Marina

We had a very lay back time at Van Isle, did one chore a day at most, biked multiple times to Sidney town for a little bit of shopping, groceries, a fair, the Vancouver distillery etc. In the weekend multiple visits, by public bus, to Victoria. And off course a lot of visits to All Bay Marine, Vector Yacht Services Ltd (Yanmar dealer) and Canada Tire and Co-op McDonald Park Road Gas Centre for propane/lpg. And a lot of afternoon tea, early drinks, diners and other leisure activities.

  • New J-mount for StarLink
  • New bracket for Outboard. Much easier to handle now
  • Vigs, Blue Cheese and Rosé. Life is hard during the summer in Sidney B.C.
  • Sound dempers for our fresh water pump
  • Very Oelala
  • Heating up the Starboard engine prior to an oil change
  • Heating up the Port engine prior to an oil change
  • 250 hrs maintenance, all filters and oil
  • Cleaning inlets and free the speed paddle after 6 weeks of doing nothing.

Kiskaduct

It isn’t easy to sail the North Pacific. Going from Japan to Vancouver is a challenge, even to a well build Seawind1260 like our Kiskadee. We know that before doing it and experiencing it while doing it.

It’s roughly a month of sailing and you will experience both storms and very calm weather. The conditions are hard, the water temperature is 6-8⁰ Celcius, 15⁰ on daytime, 10⁰ at night. The Webasto could get the temperature up to 17⁰ but you need to run it long and hard. Consumes 0.6 liter per hour. Port tank only. About 50% of the days where foggy, flying water or raining, a few days really sunny.

No wind

Calm weather is annoying because you can’t motor-sail all of the time, doing 1400 – 1600 rpm on one engine you burn 1.4-1.6 liters an hour for 3.5 knots of boat speed. So a day of motor-sailing burns 35-40 liter, 16-17.5% of a tank. We were not able to do a stable drift on autopilot. Not enough speed for the AP to maintain a course and constantly rudder alarms. You can’t look the steering wheel by a friction nut, so a construction with elistics and rope is needed.

To munch wind

Bad weather is also annoying but for a different reason. You worry about the boat. Big winds, up to 30 knots, big waves 3 meters plus. Going on a broad reach, its very doable, long waves from behind, sometimes surfing. 90 to 120 is very oncomfortabel, a screwdriver wobble. And more into the wind, a course of 40 to 50⁰ is frightening if the wave length in between is to short. Big bangs of water to the hulls, underneath the bridge deck and to the watertank. So the main thing to do is depower, slow down your speed. Almost no Jib and put the boom outside and lose a lot of wind. Any speed over 7 knots is uncomfortable.

Experience

So up to 20 knots of wind we sail with all sails up, except when we are doing 30-45⁰ AWA and waves are short to each order. First reef then give a more stable boat going over the waves in stead of through them. We discovered that all weather models under estimate the wind strenght in the night by 3 to 4 knots. And more gusts. So the well known first reef by night and reduced job. The jib add a knot of boat speed between fully and 50% deployed, but is the first action to stop Kisadee slamming through the waves.

Breaking things

We had 2 times the furling badly shaved and replaced, shorted and the third reef line, already shaved, snapped during a storm with ~27 to 30 knots of wind. We anticipated the snapping of the third reef and had a second construction setup at the front and back at the boom. The outer hauler shaved and snapped. The parasailor tacklines and barberhaulers lines get broken mantles which we repaired.

Shaving is a major problem, all reef lines to the back off the main, especially at the batten pockets, all halyards at the lewmar clutches, all barberhaulers where they touch the sheets, furling line on the furling drum window. Three solutions, daily inspections, duct tape on lines at shaving points and no tension on lines like reefs, topline, furling line etc when not in use.

User errors like breaking a lewmar clutch when running a line directly to a winch in stead of first to a running block. Losing a stopper at the Jib rail by losing control of the furling line and no tension on the jib sheet in high winds. The block wasn’t secured, pin down, so the stopper took multiple hits and broke off. A broken and glued back stopper for the self trailing disk on the small winch on port side. A ring of the dighy snapped off, too much tension in the wrong direction with a hard polyester line. But all repairable.

Condensation

Our biggest challenge is condensation. 10⁰ difference in temperature between out and inside and a lot of most is a real challenge. Not only windows and hatches, but complet hulls, inside cupboard’s, walls everything condensates. We generate to much most, by wet clothes, cooking, breathing. Airing is not a solution, we would like to stay a bit warm inside. So microfil clothes and wringing on an 2-hourly base. And everything is damp.

We long for a sunny and calm day to open hatches and and let warm and dry air into the boat.

Other stuff

We had our starboard engine running hot twice. The problem was an air leak at the gross filter between the housing and the top, hold together by a wing nut. A little petrol jelly and a hand tightening did the job. We learn the first time to look at the filter before looking at the impeller Wich was fine.

We had multiple errors on Vesper Cortex, Iridium Go and B&G MFD, NAC3 aka the autopilot. Running them constantly longer then 1 to 1,5 weeks generates software problems. The solution is simple, ones a week reboot all appliances. Do some hand steering.

(first published 21 June, limited internet)

Crossing the North Pacific

After a delivery from the Seawind factory in Ho Chi Minh city and via stops at Philippines, Taiwan and Japan, we are now prepared to do a crossing, big circle navigation from mid Japan to Vancouver in Canada.

Straight line it’s an ~ 5000 NM trip, big circle 4200. We think it will be a max of 5000 NM including tacking, avoiding a depression etc. With an average of 132 NM a day it will be a maximum of 37 days crossing without any landfall.

Crossing Choshi  - Vancouver
Crossing from Mid Japan to Vancouver

Preparation

The preparation is not much different then any, except you need to think harder about food supply, fresh, frozen etc. The freezer and fridge are full with fresh produce, yogurt, cheese etc. We were very pleased with frozen vegetables in addition to fresh. Fresh water is never an issue thanks to the water maker and the big tank on Kiskadee. Our Solar panels keep filling up our batteries to 100% even on a rainy day.

The usual stocking of diesel (light oil in Japan), we added 4 jerrycans of 20 liters. We calculate the amount of hours you can run your engine. With a 1600 rpm on one engine we use 1,6 liters an hour, and do about 3,5 knots of boat speed. Our Webasto heater uses 0.6 liter an hour. So there isn’t enough diesel to do long mothering, 2 * 125 hours or 875 NM. That is 17,5% of the distance. It is called a sailing vessel. 🙂

Weather Forecast

The first step is to look at the historical data when to cross. Luckily all that hard work is done by Jimmy Cornell with Pilot Charts and his well know book World Cruising Routes.

So crossing toward Japan is preferably done in March and April, latest in May, because the Typhoon season starts. And this year, perhaps of the really hot weather, they are early and powerful. The crossing of the North Pacific, Japan – Canada / US, is always a sailing trip between lows and highs with either a lot or no wind. Depressions are getting in from the Russian mainland, coming from (North) West going North East. The other path are the remainders of Typhoons, storms coming from the middle Pacific, going to Philippines or Taiwan and then up North East to Japan, Mid Japan. They tent to go East (or North East). The water around the Kuril and Aleutian Islands is still to cold to feed these systems.

The passage from Mid / North Japan – Middle Aleutian Islands is a nice one because their is a strong global current pushing you in the right direction. It is an alley between the most depressions and it avoids the big summer high pressure area between Midway / Hawaii and the east coast of the US. Its a great circle navigation and shorter than a direct straight line.

Doing it

We had an option to leave Choshi, Mid Japan to have a favorable wind direction for almost a week. Combined with the strong Kushiro current. The down side, within 7 days the leftover of the Typhoon Mawar, a deep storm depression was going to pass us at 400 NM.

6 knots of current
6 knots of current

So on day five the storm took a path more North than the previous forecast. We adjusted our course to straight north, getting closer to Hokkaido and put an extra 100 NM between us and the outside of this depression. Winds at one time up to 30 knots, but current, waves and wind in the same direction. Big waves 3-4 meter but with more than a boat length between them, not uncomfortable. Its was a night with tension, the passing of the center and the turning and lowering of the wind took a long time.

Current we are motor-sailing with 6 knots of wind and the forecast is that will be the case for the next 2 days. Progress is good, we past the first 1200 NM.