Saturday, November 17, 2007

FUBAR: Beautiful Bahia Santa Maria

Date: November 13, 2007
Time: 06:00
Position: North 240 57.75, West 112 38.15
Course: 141 Degrees (True)
Speed: 7.7 Knots
Water Temperature: 74 degrees F
Visibility: Unlimited, scattered, low cumulus clouds under a blue sky
Our man James Kirby on watch aboard Pacific Escort.

It’s 06:00 and the trolling lines are already out as we approach Thetis Bank, the 75-foot-deep fishing bank about 10 miles off the coast of Baja. Several other boats from the FUBAR fleet are here fishing too—Unreel, Big Mama and the two Nordhavn 43s—Rogue Manor and Wayward Wind. As we crisscross and circle in an area approximately a mile square in size, there is constant chatter on the VHF. The skippers inform each other of their course and intentions—nobody wants to snag a trolling line. We are all on Pacific Escort’s flying bridge—20 feet above the waterline, where we have a commanding view, of the surrounding water. Everyone is on the lookout for the telltale splash of a fish, or a Marlin breaking the surface.

08:46—Jeff is in the galley fixing a breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs and toast when we hear a shout from the aft cockpit, “Hook up!” We look aft from the flying bridge just in time to see a Marlin jump—deep metallic blue and silver spray in the Pacific sunlight. Jim immediately chops the throttles and puts the boat in reverse. The swim platform digs into a following swell and everyone in the cockpit, and even up on the boat deck, is soaked by a boarding wave. But nobody cares. We’re all too excited, watching James play the fish. After a few minutes, the Marlin is along side. It’s too small to keep as a trophy, so Eric unhooks it and holds it in the water until its color returns and it swims away. Other than a few Bonito, we have no more luck on Thetis bank, so we head for Bahia Santa Maria, a perfect bay, separated from the larger Bahia Magdalena bay by a spit of land.

09:07—Virtually everyone one board is busy carrying out a time-honored nautical tradition—cleaning the boat before entering port. It’s not a port—per se—just a bay, but most of the fleet will be there. The Leishmans have been intimately involved in designing, building and marketing Nordhavns all their adult lives—since they were children in the case of Eric and James, and their pride in these boats shows. Pacific Escort is scrubbed from stem to stern. Having a large supply of freshwater certainly helps, as does a built-in vacuum system.

10:40–We are about two miles offshore, passing the rocky, arid headlands of Cabo San Lazaro—gray and tan hills rising about 300 feet out of the ocean. They are chiefly composed of lava and volcanic tuffa—weathered into peaks and cone-shaped talus slopes that run down to the edge of the sea. Perhaps during the rainy season, there is vegetation on them, but right now, they are completely devoid of anything green. At 11:45, we hear Sue yell. She has been sitting in the aft cockpit relaxing, when a fish hit one of the trolling lines. She grabs the rod from the holder, shouts, “That one’s mine!” and begins reeling it in. It turns out to be a Bonito—about five pounds, so they throw it back.

12:05—We enter the beautiful harbor of Bahia Santa Maria. Jim explains that this is one of the first places a cruiser heading north from Cabo San Lucas can duck in and get some relief from the constant beating of the north setting current and winds. With a clear, blue sky above, it appears to be the perfect hidden bay of a remote desert island—the kind of place sailors dream of. At 12:26 we set our 200-pound plow anchor in 35 feet of water. The bottom is sandy, with good holding. A warm 8-knot wind blows through the open doors of the pilothouse.

13:00–A Panga, one of the local 20-foot long, outboard-powered fishing boats that ply the waters around here, comes to get us and take us to the FUBAR dinner on the beach overlooking the bay. The tide is low, but the two Mexican fishermen driving the boat are experts at crossing the bar that leads into the estuary beyond. They land us and we join the party on the beach.

The beach dinner is a good chance to catch up on the adventures of the rest of the fleet. I check in with FUBAR chairman Papa Bruce Kessler. He says all has gone well and things are up to his expectations. With 52 boats and skippers of varying skill levels, that’s good. Dr. Jerry Kornfeld, our fleet surgeon, says there is nothing to report in the way of medical problems. Jerry, who is retired now, was once a doctor on a cruise ship. Now he lectures cruise ship audiences on various health issues as part of the shipboard entertainment. He has also authored the book, Your Hundred Year Heart. Mike Levitt, the skipper of the boat Robin Lee, which had the steering problems, says that since replenishing the system, it has worked fine. However, when he finally returns to Los Angeles at the end of the cruise, he will be taking the autopilot pump with him on the airplane.

The crew of Brown Eyed Girl, the smallest boat in the fleet, have fished their way south and are in high spirits, recounting the stories of their victories over Dorado, Yellow Tail and Marlin. Bob Godfrey, skipper of Unreel, plans to leave early in the morning for more fishing further south.

Shortly before sunset, we all board the waiting pangas, head out through the estuary and surf and return to Pacific Escort. It has been a long day and by 20:00, everybody is in bed, including me.

--James Kirby, aboard Pacific Escort anchored in Bahia Santa Maria

No comments: