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~ Chapter Ten ~
Fish Camp to Cabo San Lucas
Early the next morning I heard a group of men walking towards my shack. It was a warm and clear morning...not a cloud in the sky. I glanced to the west and was extremely relieved to see tha Vaka Viti still floating offshore. Jesus introduced me to Arnaldo the neighborhood "mecanico". Arnaldo motioned me to follow him down to a fishing panga were his 4 buddies were getting ready to head out to sea. I offered to help them push their boat into the oncoming waves but he was smart enough to know that I would probably be more of a liability than an asset. He asked me to jump in the boat and hang on. With the first incoming wave they pushed the panga off the sand and into deeper water and then jumped in. The swells had gotten bigger overnight and it looked like it would take a miracle for these humble hombres to negotiate this small boat past the huge waves. They motored slowly forward trying to time the final push when the biggest waves were past. When it looked like a break in the waves Arnaldo hit the throttle and we darted westward, only to find that there was one more huge wave coming our way. The face of the wave was at least 10 feet tall and it became obvious that we were not going to get past it before it started to break. Arnaldo held the throttle firmly and blasted head on into the monster breaking wave. We shot up the face of the wave like a rocket and the boat pitched almost straight up into the air! The nose of the boat then dropped down as the bottom of the boat slammed hard on the flat ocean surface. We had made it. "Ole!" I yelled and the men in the boat smiled and seemed very proud of the successful "launching" and the value added excitement.
Arnaldo's helpers dropped us off at the Vaka V. and then headed out to sea to tend to their nets. He brought along an empty plastic one gallon water container with colorless tools that seemed well beyond their useful life. But within 20 minutes he had the carburetor and fuel lines apart, removed the fiber obstructions that were blocking the flow of gasoline, and had the whole kit and caboodle put back together. In typical Mexican fashion he refused to quote me an amount of money for his services. He finally accepted $43 as his buddies returned to pick him up. As they pulled away and waved goodbye I realized that my sleeping bag, jacket and cooler full of clothes were still on shore with Jesus. What the heck, I was now in the tropics and probably wouldn't need the sleeping bag and jacket much anymore, and I could always buy more shirts and shorts. Besides Jesus could probably use them more than I could, he certainly deserved them. I pulled up the anchor, buckled on my life vest and ankle leash and headed south. It was a great day to be alive!
Heading south I passed the rocky beaches of Punta Conejo. This remote outpost wasn't much more than a quiet fish camp until surfers discovered the place in the '70's. It's still a pretty quiet place, but on any given day there are more surfers in the area than pangeros, additional evidence of the Gringo evolution in Baja. The landmark steel lighthouse could be seen just inland from the crashing waves, and then miles of open beaches lined the coast. I was looking forward to seeing Todos Santos, a sleepy town that has taken on a kind of artsy "Carmel" flavor over the last few years. The possibility of a shower was also in the back of m mind.
As I progressed along the coast the motor began acting up again. It would run at half throttle but would stall at full speed. Eventually I realized it was the same type of fuel-related problem that I had experienced the day before. After inspecting the fuel system I finally I discovered a clogged fuel connection where the main fuel tank hooks up to the rubber fuel line. Taking the brass fitting apart I was surprised the boat could run at all. Thin fibers clogged the flow of gasoline to the point where only a fraction of gas could pass into the fuel line. I cleaned the fibers out of the fitting with my toothbrush and then blew hard to eliminate any residual obstructions. After reinstalling the line and pumping the fuel ball the motor started immediately with the first pull of the rope. At least if the motor stalled again I had a pretty good idea of what to do to get it running again. Seems like that $5 per gallon gasoline I had purchased in Puerto Magdalena had more ingredients in it than I wanted!
As I neared Todos Santos I began to notice evidence of this quaint town's future. Ocean front homes began to dot the coast, most of them new and quiet nice. These were not Mexican homes, these were Gringo owned and inhabited. The closer I got to Todos Santos the more homes I saw along the coast. Most of the homes were not gigantic in size like the newer homes now being built in Cabo. They were moderate in size, and designed to blend in with the natural surroundings. Yet it was obvious that they were all quite nicely furnished and landscaped. I was now only 50 miles from Cabo San Lucas and I could almost taste my Welcome Margarita.
Past Todos Santos the pristine coastline became more desolate again, with only an occasional home interrupting some of Baja's most beautiful beaches. Cars traveling just inland along Baja's Highway 19 reminded me that I was leaving the solitude that I had grown very used to and that I was re-entering civilization. The last 10 miles of coastline north of Cabo featured some of the most expansive and incredible sand dunes on the Baja Peninsula. Off in the distance I noticed the old lighthouse just up from the beach, with Cabo's newer lighthouse capping a large hill higher and to the east. It was mid afternoon and sportfishing boats that had been out at sea were returning to Cabo, flying blue and yellow flags showing the type of fish they had caught. I wondered what they thought of the small panga with a yellow life raft strapped to the top. They probably thought it was just one more boat out for an afternoon of chasing Dorado.
As I rounded the Cape I slowed to take a picture of Los Arcos, the famous arch that marks Land's End. I have always thought that it was quiet remarkable, and deservingly appropriate, that the incredible Baja Peninsula would come to an end with such a spectacular natural land formation such as the huge granite arch. I took my photo and rounded the point. There is was in all it's glory...Cabo San Lucas. I almost could not believe it. I made it halfway to my destination!
Despite my anxiousness to get on land, I did not want to break my tradition of filling up the Vaka Viti with gas before I put her to bed. The fuel docks at Cabo Marina were very busy this time of the afternoon with everyone harboring the same idea of filling up for the next run out in the morning. I waited my turn to get space at the fuel dock while drinking in the sounds, smells and activities of this busy port. This was so far removed from where I was last night that it seemed like a different world. Soon it was my turn to tie up and I was particularly proud to get off the boat and stand on the dock. It would have been foolish to tell everybody on the dock where I had come from, but that is exactly what I felt like doing. Although I kept my announcement to myself for the most part, I did tell a short version of my story to the Pemex worker who handed me the gas pump hose. He was indeed impressed with my feat, and I swam delightfully in the recognition he gave me as I answered his questions about my trip. I filled all of my gas cans and was happy to hear that they accepted credit cards for payment. I had spent over six hundred dollars in cash for gasoline on the way down, and was trying to conserve whatever cash I had left for the run up the Sea of Cortez. The guard on the adjacent dock pointed me towards the guest docks in the southeast corner of the marina. It couldn't have been more appropriate that I was instructed to dock my boat in front of the restaurant / bar "Margaritaville". It was even more remarkable that the song playing at the restaurant as I tied up was Jimmy Buffet's "Son of a Sailor". Coincidence? I think not!
The marina guards informed me that I had landed on an official Mexican holiday weekend, the Day of the Dead, and that I would not be able to perform my boating paperwork until Monday. I had been dreading the thought of all this running around and became giddy with the knowledge that I could legally postpone it all until Monday, the day I was leaving! I knew my wife and daughter would not be flying in to meet me until tomorrow, so I set tracks into town to get a hot fish taco, a cold beer and well deserved hotel room. After checking in to the Mar de Cortez Hotel I decided to get a rental car so I could pick up my family at the airport in the morning for my halfway roundevous. The Volkswagon convertible was definitely the hot tip, and I drove it back to the hotel and parked it. That night I made the rounds to Cabo's famous night spots, more out of habit than desire. The Giggling Marlin was definitely happening, and El Squid Roe was on fire. But ultimately my desire for a warm bed eclipsed my need for additional cervesas, and I walked 3 blocks back to my room and fell sound asleep.