Wednesday, November 21, 2007

FUBAR: Time for farewells in La Paz

Date: November 19, 2007
Time: 09:20
Position: North 24 14.30 West 110 03.95
Location: Sea of Cortez—50 Nautical Miles South of La Paz
Course: 304 Degrees (True)
Speed: 9.0 Knots
Visibility: Unlimited

We are about 50 miles south of La Paz and one mile off Punta Santa Cruz. The sea is flat and the boat has an easy motion (I’m going to miss the motion of this big boat). This is the last day of our cruise and my last log entry.

Pacific Escort left Bahia de los Muertos about 07:00, along with the rest of the fleet and should arrive in La Paz about noon. Already the activity on the boat has changed. The last loads of laundry are being done. Bags are being packed and non-essential gear is being stowed. In the past, conversation was about the boat itself and what was going on around it. Now it is about the future: about leaving the boat, about airline schedules, about work back home. The SAT phone has been used more today than it has the entire trip, as people get caught up on what’s happening at their jobs, or schedule a ride home from the airport, or find out how a pet or a relative is doing. However, not everyone is thinking about the future. I’m out on the Portuguese bridge watching an albatross circle overhead, marveling at how long it can glide—I bet I’ve been watching it for five minutes and it hasn’t flapped its wings once.

1l:55—Having turned the corner at Punta Coyote, we are traversing the spur of land that sticks out into the Sea of Cortez and forms the eastern end of the large Bahia de La Paz—the Bay of La Paz. In another hour we will be at Marina Costa Baja, which has graciously made space for the entire fleet. However, not all is well with the fleet: Native Son, one of the boats still behind us, has radioed that they have had a small electrical fire near the starter solenoid for one of their two engines. They have shut the engine down as a precaution and are proceeding just fine on the other one; however, we are standing by. If they have a problem with their remaining engine, we will have to turn around, go back out, and tow them in. At least the sea is calm. We finally enter the marina and tie up, but remain on stand-by until Native Son finally arrives.

There is nothing for me to do now: Jim, Sue, Eric and James have been through the procedure of putting a boat in storage, that they have everything under control. So fellow journalist George Sass and I take a cab into La Paz to look around. La Paz is an old city and the main port for cruisers in the Sea of Cortez. The road along the strand in town highlights the beauty of the bay and ocean. There is some new construction, but much of the old is being preserved.

When I return to the boat, my wife Joyce has just arrived. Everyone gets to know each other over a glass of wine, and then she and I depart for the nearby Fiesta Inn, where we will be staying for a few days before flying back. That evening, the FUBAR fleet has its last party on the beach. Speeches are given and those responsible for making the cruise such a success are thanked. Then we are all off to bed—some of us in the hotel, most still in their boats. Many have plans to stay down here and continue cruising. Others will leave their boats here for a while and then return north with them.

The next morning, we all get up and meet at a farewell breakfast, where Captain Pat Rains gives a lecture on cruising the Sea of Cortez. Afterward we return to Pacific Escort for one last time. The boat has been cleaned from top to bottom and insides are immaculate and tidy. PAE owns the boat and plans to keep it here for others in the company to use, but they will also sell it if the opportunity arises. The Leishmans are all packed and ready to head for the airport and home today. We all say our goodbyes and leave. For the past two weeks, they have been my family and Pacific Escort has been my home and, more importantly, a way for me to experience a wonderful world few people ever get know. I’m really going to miss that boat.

--James Kirby, aboard Pacific Escort for the final time


“Far from welcoming a return, we rather resented going back to newspapers and telegrams and business. We had been drifting in some kind of dual world—a parallel realistic world; and the preoccupations of the world we came from, which are considered realistic, were to us filled with mental mirage.

“This trip had been like a dreaming sleep, a rest from immediacies. And in our contacts with Mexican people we had been faced with a change in experiences.”

-John Steinbeck, writing in The Log from the Sea of Cortez

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