It was midnight when we dropped anchor and tumbled into our individual berths ready for a well deserved night’s sleep. After battling 15 foot seas for what seemed like 24 hours, I was glad to find a dry spot in the forward berth of my 30′ sloop where I could just shut my eyes for a moment. It was already midnight and there was a 36′ power boat anchored at Cedros Island next to us. I was so looking forward to shutting my eyes and resting my weary bones and broken spirit. Like most of the trip thus far, it just wasn’t going to be.
Winds and currents play large roles in determining whether or not an anchor sets, but an exhausted seaman can also ignore the noise an anchor makes while testing it, casting the boat adrift away from an island’s shelf. The result was that we spent another 7 hours attempting to winch that anchor loose when all 250 feet of anchor chain payed-out straight to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, refusing to be pulled up. There was no way to predict how far my vessel had drifted and I was just too tired to care any longer. I did realize at this point however, we probably had drifted off the shelf and were in deep water. When the winds finally died down I remembered, I’m in Mexico and I speak Spanish! I got on the VHF radio and summoned “ayuda” giving our coordinates in Spanish. There is a God after all! Before we knew it, a “panga” with about 5 Mexican fisherman arrived with double 250 hp Mercruisers. They finally popped the anchor and towed “The Loon” back to the desired Southern end of Cedros Island off the Baja Coast. It was now 7:00 am and I was just so relieved at being saved I didn’t mention anything about the dangling cocaine vials around the fishermen’s necks. All I cared about was the fact that it was daylight, the sun was now beaming, and we were safely at anchor at the best end of the island listening to the cries of harbor seals sun themselves on the rocks.
It was there, after 48 hours and just two-days from Ensenada Bay that I should have ended the journey had I known what lay ahead. That journey ended seven months later with a hasty American Airlines flight back to Ft. Lauderdale on July 19, 1997 when telephone calls to my mother just kept getting stranger.
After an 8 year healthcare administration career I burned out, leaving a position at Grossmont Hospital to sell marine diesel engines on Shelter Island in San Diego Bay. Following all the activity on the island after the 1990 America’s Cup International sailing competition, I fell in love with sailboats and their keels. But through weekly long distance phone calls I remember mom asking “When are you coming home?” How could I tell her that I was home? I was on a new career path, enjoying weekend sailboat races, selling engines and services to happy boat owners rather than dealing with sick patients, and loved my busy life at sea. On Labor Day 1993, I purchased The Loon and moved onboard. Below see photo of daughter, Lena, on what is said to be one of the two happiest days in a sailor’s life.
By December 2, 1996 I was ready to pull up the dock lines and head down the Baja California coast to begin my new adventure. A captain friend and I shoved off down the not-so pacific, Pacific Ocean. At 7:00 am we tacked towards the island of Todos Santos (All Saints) out of Ensenada Bay to pick up a good wind. We sailed with the famous Baja ha-ha, a race taking place each December when cruisers leave for Cabo San Lucas, some eventually making their way to the islands of Polynesia and Micronesia. Our camaraderie was shared daily via VHF radio. It would take The Loon 3 weeks to make the trip south to Cabo but the people we shared dinners with at anchor while visiting different ports on our journey south will never be forgotten. At 6:00 am on Christmas Eve we made our Cabo San Lucas destination, listening to Latin music coming from the beach as workers arrived at the hotels. After checking in on VHF as the latest arrivals organized by the “Broken Surfboard Restaurant” for Latitude 22 Magazine, and catching up with sailors who had become dismasted at sea, we secured The Loon and jumped in the dinghy for a shower at the marina and a pancake breakfast with friends.
Following a rare January storm at anchor where I nearly beached the boat, a two-week trip to La Paz was in order as Mardi-Gras was about to begin. On the way back to Cabo, a friend used my boat to assist in a rescue at sea, breaking the The Loon’s bowsprit, leaving me shipwrecked in Mexico! The Loon’s bowsprit could not be repaired and she could not be sailed north to San Diego because the engine was underpowered to make it back to the “barn” (a term that describes the trip north from Cabo because of constant strong headwinds). For 7 months, I worked with some of the yacht captains I knew from San Diego, helping deliver their owner’s yachts down the Mexican Riviera until I could come up with Plan B for securing the bowsprit. For 7 months I would call mom and her voice told me her memory was failing. Finally, in July 1997, I received a phone call from Manny, a yacht captain I knew in San Diego who had just delivered his owner’s 105′ yacht to Ft. Lauderdale. Due to crew theft he dismissed them all, offering me a job on the “Carla Elena” in Ft. Lauderdale. This offer could not have been made at a better time. Earlier that day I had called mom and found she had inadvertently left the stove on and walked away and the place had filled with smoke just as I called. I was on the next plane east. The Cabo San Lucas marina was now the proud owner of “The Loon” and I was on my way to learn life’s lessons.