Sunday, May 2, 2010

Back to square one

By Yana:

Quite a bit has happened since our last entry, but if I write one of our patented day-by-day descriptions, this entry is going to be another huge monster, so I'll skip that.  We spent our last few days in Ensenada up to our ears in work dealing with our bicycles.  We decided that our best option for getting them back to Australia was to ship them from LA, and Jim and Ann conceded to let us transport the bikes on the boat to San Diego, which would be our first stop.

Through a coincidental bit of luck, we ran into a fellow bearing a box which was pretty much the perfect size and shape for our purposes.  As it turned out, he works for a company which sells flat screen TVs, and we ended up purchasing a box off him into which we could fit both bikes, actually saving quite a bit of space.

From then on, we spent almost the entire time until we left taking apart our bikes and cleaning the tiny fiddly bits very thoroughly.  I suspect the entire process probably took 24 hours or so.  By the time we had them packed, it was 4am on the morning we were going to leave.  We got a little bit of shuteye, and then set about getting our big bad box to the Cactus Wren.  Juergen, the guy who had first introduced us to the folks around the marinas, was nice enough to drive us, which made the whole thing infinitely easier.  We also got to say goodbye to Daniel, as he had gotten back from LA a little early, so that was nice.

Once we had wrapped the box up in rubbish bags and a sailcover to protect it from the spray, we loaded it onto the boat and were pretty much ready to go.  It was the afternoon by the time we set off, though.  With the wind against us, we ended up motoring all the way to San Diego.  Both Sundance and I got to spend some time at the wheel, and we went through the night.  

Sometime after midnight, when Ann was at the wheel, the self-steering rudder broke off, and we had to fetch Sundance and Jim to haul the thing aboard.  Good thing it had been tethered by the ropes, otherwise we almost certainly would have lost it.  After that, Jim steered us the rest of the way to San Diego, where we arrived at about 4am on Monday.

Shortly after arriving at the Police Docks on Shelter Island, we were in for a rude surprise: the visa waiver program, under which we had been travelling in the US all this time, does not cover travellers on private boats! The reason for this is unclear, especially as it's just fine if you're in a car, on a bike, on foot, or on a plane.  The upshot was that we had to pay a "fee" (a pretty way of saying "fine") of $540 each in order to be allowed into the US.  Heading back was not an option, due to the broken rudder and a bad weather system coming in, and Ensenada being the nearest port at 13 hours away.  All the options we tried to think of were against the rules, and we ended up just having to cough up the money, much as it hurt.  It'd just be nice to actually be informed of expensive trivialities like that before you blunder into them, but it's unclear how we possibly could have known.

On the bright side though, we did end up having a nice chat on the phone with our friends from Kentucky, Clint and Valerie.  For those of you who don't remember, Clint is the State Trooper with a fondness for harrassing possums in courageous ways.  We had hoped that some of Clint's connections might be able to help us weasel out of our predicament with the $540 fine, but no dice.  Still, we got to catch up a little, and found out that their daughter Taylor had recently won two academic awards, which was great to hear.  Took our minds off it for a bit.

We got stuck into getting some of the mundane things, like laundry, done.  In the midst of that, we started to make some local friends, at a smoothie bar called The Point.  Sarah, one of the girls who works there, ended up taking us up to the Farmer's Market at Ocean Beach after her shift, which was a very fun afternoon.  We spent the next day or so getting groceries and such.

On the Friday, Jim and Ann informed us that they'd had a talk amongst themselves and decided that we weren't "boat people", and probably wouldn't fit into the routine of living in the confined quarters of a boat for several weeks, so they'd decided to withdraw their offer to take us to the Marquesas. That was obviously a bummer, and put us into a bit of a spin trying to figure out our next course of action, and our other options for getting back to Australia. So we spent most of the rest of the day figuring out whether we could find another boat, how much it would cost to fly back, and so forth. Saturday was basically taken up by getting our stuff packed and off the boat, and Sarah was nice enough to let us crash at her place overnight. We now have a couple of other boat options to explore, and the next few days should determine how we make our way off the North American continent.

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