Stormfront Boomerang – Part 2
Christian Beamish is back with his hand-built sailboat, Cormorant, and the conclusion to his story from Baja. Please read part 1 first if you missed it yesterday.
This was bad, but in the realm of wilderness breakdowns, not so bad really. I was not injured, I would not go hypothermic – worst case scenario I would drift across the bay and wash in along the beach somewhere that night or the next morning. But how the hell did I know? Anything could have happened. So I guess it was a bad enough. At any rate, I soon caught sight of a panga charging towards me over the rough water, and yet again in my short career of Baja seafaring and beachcombing, I was about to experience the kindness and generosity of Mexican fishermen.
Our thanks go out to Christian for sharing his story and photos. To hear another example of the kindness and generosity of Mexican fishermen, listen to Christian's Dirtbag Diaries episode "Three Eighths to Eternity."
The pilot was a young fellow who saw the whole catastrophe from his camp, and I threw him a line, which he tied to the stern of the panga, then throttled up and brought me in at a slow crawl. My vessel was submarining and I moved aft to keep the bow up, lunging occasionally to prevent the dagger board, the surfboard, or the seat cushions from washing away. I had strapped the Stormfront pack to the mizzen, so I didn’t worry about that. The young fisherman and I couldn’t communicate over the wind, so I just gestured to the landing cove, and he motored in, swiveled the motor hard over, and gave me one last burst of speed to glide in on before he released the tow rope. Cormorant veered off course, missed the keyhole landing, and full-up with several tons of seawater made a sickening crashing sound as we hit the rocks and stove-in the port side bow.
I hopped over and waded ashore, pulling my smashed up boat alongside, and bucketful by bucketful, emptied the seawater until she was light enough to pull a bit farther up and unscrew the drain plugs. K and Rio had walked to the other side of the point and so they missed the whole show, which was for the best as there was little either one of them could have done. That night, licking my wounds with a little Nescafé and Hornitos (even if I had quit drinking three years before), and planning out the repair so we could sail our way homeward a week or two later, I realized that I hadn’t retrieved the Stormfront pack. With a headlamp I stumbled back to the landing cove (remembering now with each stagger why I do not drink) and discovered that the pack was gone.
“C’est la vie en Mexico,” I thought, and decided to have a few beers at the camp cantina where the young fellow who rescued me works (I had 100 pesos in the zipper pocket of my boardshorts). Since I’d wrecked my boat, lost my keys and wallet (not to mention K’s passport, which, it turns out, is a prized, sentimental item as it has stamps from the many countries she has worked and made friends in, those visas apparently much more than mere bureaucratic inkings from the depths of Africa and the far reaches of Europe – they are, in fact, totems, indeed, all she has to remember these places by – and my losing said passport, and not showing sufficient remorse for the loss, made the desert night that much colder around the old MSR stove)… I thought, “What the heck, three years not drinking wasn’t that big a deal anyway.” (Which of course was not true.)
[Photos: Top - the surf. Middle - the landing cove. Bottom - K... long day on the water! All photos: Christian Beamish Collection]
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The waves came up a few days later and got so good that the busted boat, the car keys, wallet, and even passport loss, seemed inconsequential. We were into it now – hours and hours of the paddle out and ride and ride and ride routine. Feathering peaks that wrapped into honing little point walls were the order of business, the 6’2” Simmons-inspired keel fin, modified displacement hull, a veritable spacecraft in these conditions. And regarding the car keys and other missing items, I took as philosophical a stance as I could, realizing that Mexico is about the best place to be if you need to improvise some means of getting your car running again. K, however, was still pretty sore about the passport.
Last day of the swell, Dr. A.J. S – from the field studies program back in town, came out for a day of surf. We talked that night at the cantina tent about the fecal parts-per-million in the water adjacent the town (“It’s like the Ganges,” he said), and I told my harrowing tale. “Maybe a fisherman will find your bag,” he said hopefully, and the evening drifted into itself and then to sleep under a galaxy full of stars and meteors. Re-tracing our steps, we sailed back the way we’d come, had the locksmith from Ciudad Insurgentes come out and fashion a new key (plus replace the rusted-out windshield wipers and long-broken door handle on my rig for an extra twenty dollars), then made the 800-mile drive north through withering desert heat, sunburned and silent for most of the way – Rio dazed by the conditions, but charming our way through the Army checkpoints.
A few days later, showered at least, but still feeling worked like you do from the best journeys, I saw an email from Dr. AJ at the field studies program:
A fisherman found a bag wash up at the left point the other day, I think he mentioned the name was K... Did you guys lose her bag/passport when you dumped the boat? I can’t think of anyone else here who may have lost a passport. If you think it's hers I will go get it and mail it to you guys next week when I'm in AZ.
Nada surf since y'all left. 12 guys out on the island playing ping pong.Best,
I asked AJ if he could give the man 200 pesos as meager thanks for his help, and got one more email the next day:
Ok I went to the guy’s house and got everything: the passport, the dry bag, the wetty, your glasses, the car keys, your boardies, some loose change, a tide chart, swiss army knife, fishing license… the whole enchilada con queso!
I'll be in AZ Monday and send you everything on Tuesday. I'll let you know how much it cost to ship. I gave the guy the $200 pesos, he was STOKED!
Yer a lucky one!
What is your address?
So yeah, the Stormfront is a good piece of gear!—Christian Beamish
Long live Cormorant. May the wind always be at her back.
[Photos: Top - the surf. Bottom - Rio with gear...good dog! All photos: Christian Beamish Collection]
UPDATE: Christian kindly sent over a few more photos for those who wished to see more of Cormorant. He also shares some details on the craft over at the Wooden Boat Foundation.
All photos courtesy of Christian Beamish.