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Trailer Boating to Ensenada
Ensenada’s Hotel Coral is just steps away from the resort’s marina facilities, which include the only fuel dock on the Pacific side of Baja California.
The highway largely parallels the rugged Pacific coast, and the vistas become spectacular at times. North- and south-bound traffic is widely separated, with two lanes in each direction. We found the road in good repair, save for a one-mile stretch of construction. The Mexican transportation department must love speed bumps, as they use them liberally to slow vehicles in advance of construction areas and the occasional curva peligrosa (dangerous curve). Keep this in mind when you’re towing a boat, as hitting the speed bumps at anything above dead slow can wreak havoc with the tow vehicle and trailer.
The exit to the Hotel Coral and Marina is north of the main portion of Ensenada, and just a few hundred yards past the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California. About an hour and half after crossing the border, we turned right on to the expansive property, and were immediately treated to a magnificent view of Bahia Todos Santos (All Saints Bay) and the two small islands by the same name that guard the bay.
After checking in at the Hotel Coral, we launched the boat at the marina’s private concrete ramp. It is a bit on the steep side, so if you go there, try to use the ramp on a high tide to avoid the slippery bottom portion.
Our tour of the marina with Fito Espinoza, the marina dockmaster, revealed a facility that’s as good or better than anything the U.S. has offer. The 350 boat slips and adjoining concrete docks are meticulously maintained, and security is tight. You need a key card to get through the gate at each gangway, and marina security staff patrol 24/7.
Built 18 years ago, a massive manmade breakwater and jetty surrounds the harbor, with a single inlet at the southwest corner. This protects the marina from prevailing winds and swells out of the west and northwest. The marina can accommodate vessels up to 110 feet in length.
The marina is unique in a number of ways. For one, it is the first marina with fuel below the U.S. border, making it the first port of call for most American boaters cruising south from San Diego. In fact, as unlikely as this sounds, it is the only marina with a fuel dock along the entire Pacific Coast of Baja California. The next fuel dock is in Los Cabos, approximately 720 nautical miles away.
To be clear, there is fuel available to cruising boaters in ports such as San Quintin, Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) and Bahia Magdelena (Mag Bay), but you’ll have to arrange to have it ferried out in cans or drums or pumped from a long hose dropped from a tall pier, as in Turtle Bay.
The Pemex dock at the Hotel Coral Marina makes it much easier, and the fuel prices were reasonable – about $3.65/gallon for either gasoline or diesel. If you came by water, you can also clear Mexican customs at the marina office.
Also unique to this marina is the presence of the live-bait barge where you can purchase live sardines before you head out for inshore species such as kelp bass, rockfish and halibut, or offshore in the summer for mahi, tuna and California yellowtail.
We had a chance to visit and make friends with some of the American boaters in the marina, including Mike and Joann Knappe, who dock their 65-foot Mikelson in the marina on a permanent basis. The veteran boaters prefer the Hotel Coral Marina to anything they have experienced in Southern California. “At $11/foot per month, the price is worth every cent,” said Mike.
For slip reservations, click on Hotel Coral Marina.