San Felipe, Baja, Mexico
Captain Cook
by Ray Alexander

What is conveyed by a name? There is a Captain Cook in history, as I remember it his short-suit was winning popularity contests. Four guys that work together have made plans to go to Baja fishing. I am one of those guys and from the start I am apprehensive. Three of us had fished in Baja many times but never with access to a boat. A fellow with the last name of Cook is part owner of a boat and wants to fish Baja. How big is this boat? And his description goes it is a small 22' fiberglass it is not a heavy boat. The roads in Mexico are less than the best and narrower than most. Ok bring the boat along.

The final arrangements find Captain Cook and I sharing his vehicle and the other two will share another vehicle. Cook has never been to my house but for me to go into Escondido is not logical and for that matter I have never been to his house. I give Cook directions and on the appointed morning I have all of my gear outside and ready to load. I go out to the end of my driveway and wait, one cup of coffee, two cups, it is chilly and I go back inside the house. Cook is half an hour late by now. I hear something and look outside to see a boat half as big as the fucking Queen Mary. Cook has a Chevy S-10 to pull this maritime monster. We load my gear and head the beast south.

Cook is apprehensive about driving in Mexico and I have volunteered to do that at least through the cities. We get about 20 miles from my house and encounter the first of several sharp turns. I hear a thump and look in his side mirror to see my Weber kettle rolling down the highway distributing parts to the four winds. You ask why is your Weber along? We assign large items like this to prevent duplication and I was to bring my barbecue. From one we are now down to none. We stop and manage to find all the components. The little S-10 does a surprisingly good job of pulling the boat.

In Calexico we get insurance and I take over the wheel. Not surprising there is traffic congestion getting into Mexacali. I love to drive in Mexico I especially like traffic circles. I lick my insurance policy and stick it on the windshield. Then I turn my hat around backward as Clint Eastwood's brother did in all of the "Any Which Way" movies when things were about to get bad. I don't have any trouble. But, now we are still inching toward Mexico and I am at a big disadvantage, a strange vehicle and pulling one big assed boat. I have been aced out of a squeeze down lane several times and it ain't gonna happen again. I am competing against a Ford pickup. I win but in the process I failed to notice that at the height of five feet the maritime monster is wider than the trailer. Oops, ripped the right side mirror off that Ford truck with the boat overhang.

Rather than hassle here and tie up traffic worse than it already is we will go over there. The open spot that we could get to was in Mexico, big mistake the accident was actually in the US. $40 later we are on our way again. The border agents helped negotiate and escalate the repair bill but on the plus side all the hassles with boat registration, identification, and inspection were not imposed upon us.

The next event worthy of recording is in Puertecitos as we look at the boat ramp. Remember Cook got us off to that late start. The ramp is now occupied with local fishermen cleaning their catch. We now must wait until they finish and if another Mexican fisherman comes in before the current occupant is finished, you wait more. I don't how this custom came about? I do know that it is futile to try to change it. The ramp clears and Captain Cook hands me the keys to his truck saying "I can't back that up". This is a very congested area and I get to attempt this with no previous experience with this set up. The distance from the ball to the trailer wheels will determine how "fast" or "slow" the trailer responds. This is a dual wheel deal and I have no experience with one of those.

Because it is so very constricted it takes several maneuvers just to get the truck and boat aligned to back toward the ramp. We get through the rest of the situation with out too much scratched paint and bent fenders. I am happy to report the cement wall on the ramp was not damaged. Captain Cook is now in the boat and I drive the truck and trailer to camp.

At camp we find that Captain Cook has no anchor. I can't believe this is happening to me. Within walking distance there is an inlet we can tie the boat in the center of the inlet, he does have a lot of rope. Another surprise, I am able to reconstruct the Weber and it lasts for several more years.

The next morning we go to the inlet. The boat has come very near to sinking. This is very cold weather for Baja and for some reason Captain Cook thinks that he must swim to the boat. Last night we set the boat with no one aboard it seems logical that we should be able to recover it in a like manner. Cook strips to his skivvies and dives in (I commend him for that but by now I am sure he has earned several signs). The bailing begins and the boat is brought close enough that Chuck gets on and helps. With the boat riding much higher in the water I suggest that we have breakfast. Declined.

Submerging the battery and starter in salt water is not a good idea. Chuck takes the starter apart dries, clean, and reassembles it. The battery is very dead so we take the battery out of Cook's truck. The boat has the Chevy stove bolt 4 banger with a Merc I/O drive. The motor is persuaded to start. A whole lot of the morning has passed us by and again I suggest let's have breakfast. No let's go for one short fishing session.

Larry and Cook have the front seat with Chuck and I are behind them facing backward. The two in front are eating peanuts and the stuff from shelling the nuts is getting in our eyes. My stomach is growling but I would hold out at least a week before I would ask either of them for a single nut. We go about 7 miles from camp and start to fish Captain Cook has a fish finder but he ain't got no idear what the bullshit on the screen indicates. We start to catch some mutant looking catfish that grunt. They turn out to have a "Y" bone structure and ugly reddish flesh. Finally we start for camp.

In about two miles the motor revs increase and the boat comes to an almost stop. Almost because the wind is doing about 30 MPH toward the west and it moves us toward shore, the near shore. A wind from the opposite direction and we would be bound for mainland Mexico. Without any investigation whatsoever Captain Cook announces the out drive blew up again, that makes the 18th time. There is no paddle of any kind on this boat. I wonder why did you want to bring this boat to Mexico when it is so poorly equipped that even Captain Kangaroo wound not allow it to set sail on a kiddy pool. Larry keeps on fishing this is clearly not his problem. He snags a large triggerfish.

We talk about what will happen when we hit shore. Since Cook owns the boat he should be among those that go for help. I am the only one who has a good grasp of directions and where help might be available. The shoreline where we will come to rest is not pretty, if fact it is relatively ugly. Large rocks but a low rise to the land. The boat issues a loud thud as it contacts the first of those ugly rocks. Larry throws his fishing pole down and declares “I am not staying”. Through this very logical and democratic process Chuck and I are left to take care of this piece of shit boat.

This trip occurs long before the sophistication of my current trips. We didn’t have access to tide charts for one thing. Our hikers leave then Chuck and I agree the first thing that we need to do is decide which direction the tide is going. I get ashore and after about 15 minutes I have reached a decision that the tide is going out. Chuck yells that he thinks the tide is going out because the boat was setting more solidly on the rocks. It is now about noon, if we strand the boat midnight will be the next opportunity to recover the boat. Neither of us likes the midnight scenario.

There is one large pole aboard the wounded boat. We can’t move the boat from inside. Our only choice is to get in the water. It is still cold and the wind is blowing but at least the wind don’t blow under water. We ease our Caucasian asses into the water my dick went inverted and let me tell you it was an instantaneous reaction. We push, lift, pry, and I personally threw Larry’s fishing pole in the ocean with reducing the load as my only motive. We finally get the boat to float. Then we walk it to a small indention in the shoreline. We tie it in the center as had been done last night.

Since we end up ashore that is where we stay. We look longingly to the north for signs of a rescue boat. Hours go by and we actually begin to warm up some.

Now let me imagine what the other two guys are doing. As they departed I gave them my very best dead reckoning point toward a settled cove called La Castillo. To walk directly to the road would have been a short walk but that is taking you farther away from civilization. The probability of encountering a motorized vehicle on that road and getting a ride is somewhere near minus six. They did encounter a couple of nasty arroyos that required circumnavigation but eventually they reach the goal. Here they find two Americans who have been out fishing. They have tidied up and are preparing to get into a tent or tents with a couple of female beauties. They had whiskey, food, and pot with a resin content that would stick your lips together and the last thing they wanted to do was relaunch the boat get wet and cold again just to rescue idiots.

Captain Cook said they were just about to go inside the tent when the subject of where do you hail from and where do you work comes up. When one of them hears NCR he says that he has the contract to wash the windows there. Where we were at that particular time there was in excess of two miles of windows. Since we were all NCR people he would go get us. He has about an 18' Sea Witch, an aluminum boat with a 40HP motor a very nice set-up for Baja.

Finally we see a boat coming from the north. There has been no other boat traffic. The boat nears and I am surprised to see that Cook is not on the boat. These guys ask if we are the NCR guys they were looking for? We confirm, untie and tie onto their boat. Now we are wet to the neck again. They ask can you raise the out-drive, neither of us know how. Chuck did not want the job of steering this dead boat. The wind has not diminished. The tow-boat needs to point about 30° to the right of the desired course. The forward speed is very slow and steering response on the dead boat is hard to detect. We now have two wind components forward speed and the wind that nature is being so kind to provide. I am freezing! Before reaching La Castillo I have no feeling in the lower 2/3rds of my extremities. When we beached walking was very difficult however falling down was very easy.

We thank the guys and untie. Where is the truck and trailer? Where is Cook and Larry? These two come strolling down the beach toward us. I ask about the truck and trailer and the reply is it is still back at camp and that is 3 or so miles farther north. What in hell's name have you two been doing for all these hours? There is a cave at the west-end of the beach and they had been in there sleeping. It is fortunate that I didn't have a weapon. They then found a guy with a small Japanese truck that was powered by a Buick V-8. He took them to our camp.

Chuck and I go crawl into the cave, it is not much help as the wind is still hitting you and we are still wet. Time goes by and of course those two guys have lost any favored status that I might have previously bestowed upon them what is taking the idiots so long? Remember the battery on the boat? Cook's truck has no battery and the cable connections are different on the battery in the other truck. No, the other truck does not have a trailer hitch? As the sun begins to tuck in behind the mountain here they come. Shortly before reaching the turnoff the trailer comes off the truck. The ball has come off Cook's truck. The little truck with the big engine picks up the trailer and comes to the beach. He swings around and backs the trailer into the water. I don't know why we keep doing the boat stuff but Chuck and I get the boat on the trailer and that requires getting back in the water. I am impressed as the little truck pulls this load of shit up a soft sand beach and onto the hard road above. Larry has walked back along the road finding the nut and lock washer. That lock washer has obviously failed.

I say to Cook "have you got any Scotch on this truck"? He produced a full 1.75 liter bottle. I took a large sample. This is the first thing to hit my stomach since about 7:30 this morning. That was the best drink that I had ever experienced. I sampled it again.

I suppose that I was not in real danger of dying but I thought that I was. After that trip I avoided Cook in combination with any liquid, even the water fountain. If he was there I detoured around him.

Ray Alexander
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