S1E7: BajaHaHa 2017 – Final Prep, Meet the Crew, and We’re OFF!

Final Prep: Get the Temporary Import Permit!

What is a TIP?

So, let’s start by explaining what a Temporary Import Permit, or TIP, is.  Mexico requires all boats and vehicles entering Mexico to obtain a Temporary Import Permit. This permit is good for ten years which is a deal considering it only costs $52 USD. Now, the way it’s supposed to work is that you obtain a TIP before entering Mexico, and you cancel it when you leave. But that’s not what anyone does. So many Americans want to come in and out of Mexico without having to get a new permit every time, so they just don’t cancel their TIP when they leave. Then when they return, they still have a valid TIP.  And that’s all well and good, until you sell your boat and haven’t cancelled the TIP.

Because Mexico has another rule regarding TIPS: only the owner who obtained the TIP, can cancel the TIP.  So, if you buy a boat that has an existing TIP, and the previous owner did not cancel it, you CANNOT get a TIP for yourself. And a TIP in someone else’s name is not valid. AND….if you take your boat into Mexico without a valid TIP, the government can seize and keep your boat. Besides that, all marinas require a valid TIP on a foreign flagged vessel before they will give you a slip. So the bottom line is, you HAVE to get a TIP.

How to Cancel a TIP:

We had learned the hard way in our previous boat purchase the importance of ensuring there was no valid TIP prior to purchasing a boat, so, despite assurances from the previous owner of Bonzai that he had never had a TIP on Bonzai, we put a clause in the sales contract that he would be responsible for cancelling any TIP that existed. As you remember, we closed rather chaotically, and in the chaos, that detail slipped through the cracks. When we tried to get our TIP, Bonzai showed up in the database as having an existing TIP. Feeling rather proud of ourselves for having anticipated this, we contacted our broker and said, “take care of this.”  Monty (our broker) and Terry (Bonzai’s previous owner), worked very diligently to cancel the TIP, but the TIP was not in Terry’s name, but was obtained by the owner that he had bought Bonzai from. That owner did not answer any contact attempts (phone, email).  So, his next step was to write a letter to Mexico City requesting the cancellation.  Six weeks later, he still had no acknowledgement that his letter had even been received (actually, at the time of this writing, it has been 7 months, and it apparently was never received or acted upon).

Fortunately, once a year, officials from Mexico City travel to various Consulates around the U.S. for the purpose of cancelling these old TIPs.

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We Head to Los Angeles….

So, we took the train from Riverside, CA to Los Angeles early in the morning, arriving at Union Station shortly after 8 am. If you ever have the opportunity to explore Union Station, you really should! It is the largest train station in the western US and is such a grand old station. She is beautifully kept and wisks you back in time to an era when train travel was glamorous. With soaring ceilings, and enormous arched doorways, the artwork surrounds you in the architecture, windows, floors and even the furniture.

Stained glass in Union Station

Leaving Union Station, it was a short walk across the famous MacArthur Park…

MacArthur Park in Los Angeles is a beautiful, serene oasis in the city.

A few blocks later, we found ourselves at the Mexican Consulate (look for the big Mexican flag, duh). Being gringos, we were immediately directed over to the area at the Banjercito where the Mexico City officials were standing by.  Banjercito is the government controlled bank in Mexico and unlike in the US where you make your DMV payment to the DMV, or your tax payment to the IRS, in Mexico, all payments to a government service must be made at the Banjercito. Which is why only certain consulates are capable of hosting the officials from Mexico City.

All in all, the entire process took about 30 minutes. The only slight hang up we had is that the TIP application required our engine serial numbers…and our engines do not have serial numbers.  Some quick creative thinking had us appearing to make a phone call and jotting down some random numbers which we put on the application. (When we returned to Bonzai we put these random numbers on our engines with a P-touch label). I really don’t know of another way to resolve this problem!

Clowning Around at Phillipe’s

Alright, now this could only ever happen to me! As long as we were in LA, we toured some of the most famous eateries, one being Phillipe’s for their famous french dipped sandwiches (they invented them!).  We were in such a good mood after getting our TIP, and I got a little silly. We were in the back room eating when I noticed the table in the corner was trying to get a group photo. I snuck behind the photographer and started sticking my tongue out and making ridiculous gestures to get them all laughing. They asked us to join them, and then revealed who they were….the reunion of the Barnum and Bailey & Ringling Bros. circus clowns!  OMG!

Clowning around Phillipe’s!

We had so much fun hanging out with them and listening to their stories of their days in the circus. Exceptional people, every one of them!

Time to Pick Up the Crew!

If you haven’t watched the video yet, you just have to. One must experience our friends and neighbors, Phyllis and Alisa. We picked them up back home in Arizona and drove back to Cali together, where we finished the last minute provisioning. We also spent 2 or 3 days teaching them a little about sailing, since this was their first time ever on a sailboat! On Bonzai, we take having a good time seriously, but we also take safety seriously, and if anything were to happen, we feel it is extremely important that everyone on the boat would be able to take the helm, use the radio, close a through hull, assume a duty in a man-overboard situation and etc. So, we took several days to accustom them to the boat and its functions. Of course, with these two, all this serious safety precautions is well tempered with hilarity!

And finally….FINALLY…

We’re off!  I don’t think anything can prepare you for the start of a huge rally like this. For the parade, all 146 boats gather tightly together at the entrance to Shelter Island and are sent off with great fanfare! The fireboats are there shooting streams of water into the air, every boat is blasting horns, laughing, waving to each other and getting caught up in the feeling of being a part of something semi epic.

146 parading from Shelter Island to Point Loma together!

It is completely nerve wracking having so many boats crammed so tightly together as we make our way to Point Loma and the start line. This year, a navy ship apparently did not get the memo of the parade time, as it chose this time to enter the harbor and we all threaded our way out to the Point. And with a final blast of the horn….the Baja HaHa 2017 is OFF!

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S1E6: Shake Down Cruise from San Diego to Newport

Janet catches tuna

Before we take off for our Shake down cruise….

Time to head off for our shake down cruise on our 2000 Leopard 38 catamaran. But first….

Hatch Replacement

There were a couple little projects to take care of before taking off for our shakedown. The first was a hatch replacement. This starboard hull hatch had been cracked before we bought Bonzai, but wasn’t on the super high priority list even though it leaked. I had basically just covered the crack with some silicone as a stop gap measure. Then the handle broke off, which meant the hatch couldn’t be locked closed, so this project went up to the top of the priority list!

After watching how-to videos on replacing the glass, I realized we’d need something resembling a workshop and some power tools to just replace the glass. A brand new hatch on the other hand, while more expensive at $200, could be replaced with only a metal putty knife, a screwdriver and some adhesive silicone (4200 to be specific). Removing the old silicone wasn’t fun, but it was do-able and the whole thing took maybe an hour to complete.

Sugar Scoop Flooding

Basically, what’s going on here is that one of the previous owners had the sugar scoops extended 2 feet. The purpose of the extensions is to decrease the catamaran ‘hobby horse’ effect, as well as to make boarding from a dock or the water easier. Hobby horsing is the front to back rocking motion that you see on catamarans (as opposed to the side to side heeling on a monohull). The extensions work well for that purpose, however, the workmanship on our extensions turned out to be very poor.  The underside of the extensions is fiberglass, and was very well done…it’s impossible to even tell the extension isn’t original. However, the tops are 1″ marine grade plywood covered with a thin layer of textured coating. This coating, turns out, is not waterproof.

The bottom step on the sugar scoop is almost always awash when we’re underway if we have any speed at all, so water seeps through the coating and the wood to eventually fill the entire hollow chamber of the extension. To further complicate the problem, there is no access to that hollow chamber.

So, our first step was to use a hole saw to cut a 4″ access hole. From there, we can use a manual bilge pump to keep the extension chamber pumped out after sailing. We installed a little deck hatch, again using 4200, to close the hole.

Sugar scoop deck hatch
Sugar scoop deck hatch

We still need to fiberglass the top of the extension before this project can be marked off the ‘to do’ list, and we plan to have that done later while we are in Mexico.

NOW We’re Off To Newport Beach!

Leg 1: San Diego to Oceanside

We set off from San Diego Harbor at about 10:00 am with only 2-4 knots of wind on the nose. So, we motored until about 12:30 when we picked up 7 kn of wind at a -40* apparent wind angle. Nice! We set the main and jib for a close reach and sailed along at about 6 knots.  We had originally planned to overnight in Dana Point, but after so much motoring, we changed our destination to Oceanside, arriving at 6:30 pm.  For some reason, most people bypass Oceanside, and this was our first stop there. We called on the VHF as we arrived and were directed to the Dolphin Dock. Oceanside is a small marina that is very easy to navigate and the Dolphin Dock is a very long, very empty dock with shore power, but no water. Oceanside also has a fuel dock, though we didn’t need fuel. The best part was the $30 overnight docking fee. Can’t beat that!

Leg 2: Oceanside to Newport Beach

Well, as far as sailing goes, this wasn’t spectacular, but then again, we were sailing north, so it could have been worse. We left Oceanside at 9:15 am motoring along against 3 knots of wind…all day. But the fishing gods were in our favor as we caught three skipjack tuna in a row! We only kept two, and had one for dinner. Some people like skipjack, others hate it. Skipjack tuna has a very strong tuna flavor and we liked it.

Janet catches tuna
We caught THREE tuna!

We arrived in Newport Beach around 3:30 pm where our good friends Trish and John Billings were waiting for us at the anchorage near the American Legion Yacht Club. We rafted up with them and poured some early sundowners and began catching up!

John Billings
Capt. John Billings of S/V Mariah
Trish Billings
Admiral Trish Billings of S/V Mariah

Trish and John have been cruising for some 10 years and are a wealth of knowledge and experience. We had crewed for them in 2016 for the Baja HaHa on their 40′ Morgan, so it was great catching up!

Newport Beach is a fun beach town in typical Southern California style. It’s a HUGE harbor with numerous anchorages and moorings fields. Beautiful homes line the shore and you can spend days just looking at the incredible yachts in the private slips. Newport has many, many restaurants within walking distance of the multiple dinghy docks. If you prefer something further away, Uber is quick and easy. Don and I have spent a lot of time in Newport Beach over the years, so the four of us preferred to ‘eat in’ on Bonzai.  Trish got to experience cooking on a cat, which she seemed to like…a lot…though they are very much in love with Mariah and not likely to come to the dark side from their monohull!

The next morning we did a little Newport Harbor tour on Bonzai and met some future friends that were also preparing for the Baja HaHa. We closed out our time in Newport Beach with a ceremony where S/V Mariah retired her poor, worn out, and patched up 2016 Baja HaHa flag and we hoisted our fresh, new 2017 Baja HaHa flag.

Return to San Diego

We optimistically read the PredictWind forecast calling for 5-10 knot winds for our return; but, alas, we only got 6 knots at best. So we motorsailed back to Mission Bay for the next 10-1/2 hours. Our first anchorage choice swung us over to the shallows and 3-1/2 ft of water, which is right under our keel, so we re-anchored near the mooring balls and turned in for the night.

Next up: We pick up our crew (oh, just you wait ’til you meet THEM!), finalize our preparations and cross the Baja HaHa start line enroute to Mexico at last!

 

 

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