A half-mile from Ríos's office, Ramón González, an officer of the Capitanía de Puerto de Ensenada, the agency Ríos heads, steps onto a harbor patrol boat. He's dressed in the same style of uniform Ríos wears, except his pants and shirt are tan instead of black and white. The boat's about 25 feet long, with a high, sharp cutwater at the bow and two 225-horsepower outboard engines at the stern. It's made for speed through choppy water. But the water in Ensenada harbor today is little rougher than glass. As his partner, standing at the covered center console, backs the boat out of its slip, González points out a half dozen abandoned vessels tied to mooring balls 40 yards off the end of the dock. "This one's an old commercial fishing boat," he says, pointing to a metal-hulled boat maybe 60 feet long. To its left lies the hull of a wide-beamed sailboat of 50 feet. There's no mast, and everything above the cabin is charred black. "Fire," González says. "Vamos a la Tanager," he calls to his partner, and the twin outboards roar to life, drowning out all conversation. The boat's heading southwest toward the container-ship dock against the seawall that forms Ensenada harbor. To the left a quarter mile, the Carnival cruise ships Elation and Paradise are moored to the wharf at right angles to each other. Their towering superstructures block the view of the mountains behind Ensenada.
After five minutes or so, González's partner throttles down as the boat reaches the Tanager, which is moored with its starboard side against a dock near a shipping-container yard. Launched in December 1944 by the American Ship Building Company in Lorain, Ohio, the 221-foot ship served in the U.S. Navy, then the Coast Guard, until 1972, when it was sold to a Seattle man named William A. Hardesty. "It was left here about a year and a half ago," González says. "And the owner has disappeared."
The superstructure of the aging ship is painted gray, while the hull is black. González points to where the water laps against the side. "Do you see how it's rusting right at the waterline? It takes on water through those rust holes. So we have to pump it out every couple of weeks to keep it afloat." Farther to the south, near the entrance to the harbor, three rusty fishing vessels lie moored side by side. The first two are named Kunimatsu 5 and Kunimatsu 11. "Those two came into port from Japan as working fishing boats," González says, "crews and all. But they left them here. They probably needed repairs and the company didn't want to pay for them. So they left them. I don't know how the crews got home. The bigger ship, beyond the Kunimatsu ships, it came in full of Chinese illegal immigrants."
About a mile straight into the harbor from the outlet to the open ocean, the ferry Catalina lies sunken in the mud, leaning 15 degrees to port. Most of her hull is underwater. All over the exposed bow deck, sea lions lie sunning themselves, some prostrate, some throwing their heads back to let the sun warm their chests. One big bull barks out as the patrol boat approaches. At the stern of the 200-foot ferry, in what was once the restaurant area, stands a red semicircular bar with a brass foot rail. But instead of daytrippers on their way from San Pedro to Avalon, lazy sea lions surround the bar. One lies right on top. "This ship came in seven or eight years ago and sank," González says. "Now it's a home for sea lions."