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The Pack Family Journal is a place where we gather text and images of our lives, adventures and travels. This is a very personal site, written openly and honestly. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Gypsy Journal - Breaking in a New Boat

by John Pack

“What do I do, what do I do!?” Rachel screamed over the roar of the 2-stroke outboard. The boat was racing out to sea at full throttle and dragging me behind. My body was bobbing up and down as I tried desperately to hang on and stay horizontal to the surface. I was just inches from the propeller blades that could effortlessly slice through me.

“Turn it off!” I screamed back to Rachel as my mind was screaming internally "keep your balls out of the blades and don't lose my prized sombrero." The sombrero had been special for me every year, at the Blues Festival and this year with the new boat, I thought "this is the perfect fishing hat." Now, with the sombrero on my head, it was these only two thoughts that just keep repeating themselves in my head as I yelled back again, “Turn it off!” 

Every since we moved to Baja we had wanted a boat. We wanted either an inflatable or something small enough to carry on top of our car. When Rachel’s parents moved to Baja, they brought a small aluminum fishing boat and 7.5-horse, 2-stroke outboard with them, which had belonged to Rachel's late uncle. They knew we wanted a boat, so they told us we could have it.

With the help of Rachel’s dad, Richard, we built some cool racks for the top of the car out of the broken RV awning arms, which Richard had stored every since the wind tore the awning from their trailer a year earlier. With the boat securely attached to the top of the car, we headed south for the winter.

From San Felipe to La Paz we carried the boat on top of the car, and although it was a small boat made by Sears, I felt pretty cool with it up there . . . no one knew we had never actually had it in the water. We even took the San Felipe Trail from Puertecitos to Gonzaga, then past Coco’s Corner to Highway 1, and although our car and our kidney’s took a beating, the boat never budged.

In La Paz, we met Gary and Patricia, just the two to get us motivated. Patricia was a nurse and would-be veterinarian and Gary a fix-this, build-that kind of guy and both were avid fishing nuts. They had been traveling about an hour south of La Paz to “Bahia Los Muertos” (Bay of the Dead) to go fishing and, on this trip, we were going with them and taking the boat for its maiden voyage. The boat looked solid enough and, with Gary’s help, we rigged up a walker normally used by the elderly to hang the outboard. It worked really well. Not only did it have wheels to move it around, but it was just the right height to put the prop in a five-gallon bucket for rinsing.

The outboard is also a Sears brand, circa 1970 or older, called a "Ted Williams." From what I remembered, Ted Williams was a baseball player . . . I had no idea what he had to do with outboards. It was an odd little outboard, air-cooled, but after having sat unused for several years, it started on the second pull . . . Oh my goodness, it was loud! I figure the only fish I’d catch with this outboard would be deaf.

Also, going on the trip with us would be Don and Ivonne, and they’d be bringing their huge Bayliner. This would be their maiden voyage in the Sea of Cortez also, and after dragging it down the Baja and getting seven flats on their boat trailer along the way (that's seven tires in 700 miles . . . you do the math), I'm sure they were ready to put it into the water.  

When we got to the bay, Gary and Patricia were the first in, followed by Don and Ivonne. By the time Rachel and I got our boat off the car and the boat and outboard to the water, Gary and Patrica were gone around the north end of the bay and out of sight, and Don and Ivonne were out in the middle of the Bay, checking their systems, I guessed.

The sun was just coming up and the bay was glassy and flat, with the sky a beautiful light purple. The shoreline was lined with pangas and few fishermen were preparing to go out. Our preparations went smoothly as we loaded our ice chest, our dog Cai, and effortlessly mounted the outboard. I decided that since I hadn't any history with this outboard, I would stand outside the boat while starting it—just in case if it took a bit to start, we wouldn't float away from shore. I put the outboard in neutral and gave the outboard starter rope a tug . . . no go; another tug . . . no go; another tug and it roared to life. I climbed in and within a few minutes we motored, albeit loudly, into the bay.

We had decided we would hug the coastline, staying within swimming distance of shore . . . after all, this was a new boat, outboard and area to us. Although the boat and outboard were both older than Rachel, they ran great and we cruised from one end of the bay to the next, beaching it a couple of times so that I could nap while Rachel combed the beach for shells and Cai chased birds. Once we got comfortable, we decided to head out of the bay and cruise up the coast in search of new adventures. 

After about the third small cove we started to feel pretty good about making beach landings and getting in and out of the boat. Soon the tougher beaches were doable to us, we could navigate through the rocks and, although there were some waves breaking, we could still see the many rocks hiding just below the surface.

On our last cove, the beach was a real delight, from end to end the rocky beach was peppered with pieces of beautiful white coral, some were no bigger round than a bottle cap, but others were as large as a football. I had no idea what would cause this kind of coral debris, but the pieces were beautiful. Of course, in addition to a piece of coral, we found many amazing stones and shells to add to Rachel's ever growing collection.

We loaded our new treasures in the boat and, once Cai and Rachel were aboard, I decided that it was important to stay outside the boat while I started it. After all, if it didn't start right away, we would most certainly drift into one of the many rocks appearing dangerously above the waterline. I gave the outboard starter rope a tug . . . no go; another tug . . . no go; another tug and it roared to life like a racehorse being released from the gate.  

“What do I do, what do I do!?” Rachel's voice was full of panic.

“Turn it off!” I yelled back, knowing we hadn't gone over any of that prior to leaving shore. 

"I don't know how" she replied sounding a little frightened.

"Turn the throttle to off," I replied trying to pull myself up high enough to reach the throttle myself. 

With some effort, I was able to reach up and grab the throttle and give it a twist, immediately shutting the outboard down and bringing us to fast stop and causing me to hang on even harder to avoid sinking. The sea floor was somewhere below and the shore seemed like miles aways. I knew there was no way I could get into the boat without possibly flipping it or knocking Rachel out, so I started swimming, pulling the boat with me. 

Fortunately the shore was only a few hundred yards and I had a pleasant swim, whilst listening to Rachel laugh, and laugh and laugh some more. In retrospect, maybe I should have tried to get in. Oh well, we made it back to shore, I climbed in and it started on the first pull . . . wouldn't you know it!  
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