Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

May 16, 2015

BLOG from the Sea of Cortez 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 12:50 pm


I’m worried about our keel as we sail south, with the rocky coast of the Baja Peninsula no more than a few hundred yards off our starboard beam. Will some hidden rock tear out our bottom?


“We’re sailing right over the San Andreas fault,” Tom Uno explains.

Then, looking at the mountain range – the Sierra de la Giganta – it’s clear how the leading edge of the Pacific Plate in crumpling up and over the subducting North American Plate of the Mexican mainland, 150 miles to the east. Peaks up to seven thousand feet loom to define the “Mountains of the Giantess,” then drop precipitously into a canyon, over which we float. I can visualize the rock above the water continuing its plunge to profound depths below us.

We troll a fishing line behind us, hoping for a non-spaghetti dinner, but nobody bites by the time we enter the bay known for the deserted “Casa Grande” of Timbabiche. The bay is an open crescent, exposed from the NNE to the SSE.

“Most winds come from the southwest,” Tom Uno explains. “Katabatic winds of cool Pacific air roaring down from the mountains. Coromuels, they’re called. We need to anchor where we’ll avoid the fetch and where, if we drag, the boat won’t hit a rock wall.”

As with Agua Verde, there’s plenty of rock wall flanking a small beach within this bay. Captain Tom chooses his location and depth, then Tom Dos and I control the gypsy windlass, letting out anchor chain. In fifteen feet of water, we let out 90 feet of steel chain as a breeze blows us back from the anchor. After it digs into the bottom, we sit a while, watching landmarks to be certain we aren’t dragging the anchor.


Satisfied, we dinghy to the beach to explore it and the estuary behind it. Except for a paint-splattered, well worn fishing panga, beached on the sand, we’re the only ones there. Telltale fan-shaped disturbances on the sand at water’s edge reveal where blue-legged crabs have burrowed. Tom Dos digs one out for a photo. For a small animal, it makes a lot of noise, clacking its mouthparts in anger, flailing its pinchers in search of a piece of Tom.


Beyond the beach, among the dry, twisted, thorny bushes, someone watches us from his perch.


“He’s eyeing the crab, right?” I ask.

“Not ready to be recycled yet?” one of the Toms smirks. “When was your last confession?”

The strip of green flanking a brackish estuary provides food for a different bird.


At dusk, the wind begins its skid down the Giantess’ peaks, as predicted. We eat, sip libations, and, as if mimicking the Coromuel’s action, slide into philosophical stuff:

“This reminds me of the sessions we’d have in college, debating the Meaning of Life.”

“I went to a Catholic college. We weren’t allowed to discuss such things unless the archbishop had approved the answer in advance.”

“We all went to Catholic colleges. Yours wasn’t a Jesuit college, obviously. But you were allowed to drink, I assume.”

“Oh, yeah. Drink. And drive.”

“Any accidents?”

And we all three recalled our near-fatals.

“Here’s a question: how did we survive those teen years?”

Then it’s time for a trip to the head. So I take the plastic bucket with a line attached, climb up the companionway, drop the bucket overboard to fill it, haul it back, then carry it down to the head so I can flush when finished. Repeat the process to supply the next flush.

My bunk is directly over the fuel tank, so I fall asleep inhaling diesel vapors. They must effect my dreams, because I hear Sirens wailing like gusting winds topside, homicidal mermaids plucking lines against the masts, and rabid seagulls regurgitating wet fish parts all over the deck.

Not hallucinations. The coromuel tears at our flags, violently slaps lines, and stretches the anchor chain into a rigid cable as the wind tries to rip us free. Rain splatters all over us for a couple of hours as the wind whips the boat in an arc around the buried anchor. Fearing “anchor drag,” Tom Uno sets the GPS to alarm if we move from our position beyond than the arc.
The waves, however, are minimal – not much fetch – so we don’t roll or pitch or yaw. Back to sleep.

In the morning, the drying of soaked cushions begun, the flushing by bucket finished, and the first coffee swallowed, we prepare to sail out over Saint Andreas’ canyon again.

“What did keep us alive thru those Altar Boy years?”

“Luck,” one of us figures. “Just luck.”

“So how do we pay back Society for that gift?”

“Well, we’re all 70, or nearly so in Tom Uno’s case. One of us must surely have discovered the Meaning of Life by now. Maybe we should share that with today’s college kids.”

“Something to think about,” Captain Tom Uno allows. “Time to weigh anchor.”



(photos by Tom Marlow)

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