We left home several days after Christmas, headed for Bahia de Los Angeles. Mary Ann had made reservations for the big house at Larry and Raquel's. Camp Gecko was booked solid. There were a number of other amigos heading to the bay from various points north. Some of us would collect at Cielito Lindo in San Quentin for the first night.
By Saturday afternoon we had arrived at the bay and launched our boat. Kevin and Carly took it out for a spin long enough to rescue a kayaker and bring him and his kayak back to shore. They left our 14-foot tin boat resting on the sands of late afternoon.
"We should remember to tie it up," they told each other, not certain if they were going back out right away.
We were still getting unpacked and settled. Some of us ran to the village for ice and supplies and the rest of us were occupied with building our nest for the next week. Soon it's evening and we're entertained with the weather and sunset and the dolphins swimming up and down the shoreline. Then it's dinner time and we're busy cooking. After that, time for a fire. We gather and stoke the pit and sit yakking and slurping cold cervezas as the air chills and the fire catches, throwing the warmths of heat and color around camp.
Late in the evening Kev remembers the boat and runs down to the beach to check on it, to tie it up.
It's gone, nowhere to be seen, along the shore or in the bay. We take to our two vehicles and drive south along the water as close to shore as we could get, past the camps adjacent to ours, down to the turtle sanctuary. Nothing. With the pattern of weather there's no way it could have gone north. We make another trip south and turn up nothing. We're both fit to be tied but there is nothing we can do. It's a black and moonless night and we can see nothing outside the range of our flashlights, even my megawatt lighter-plugged honker.
We wear down and eventually head back for the campfire and then bed and nodsville. During the late night-early morning hours we're vaguely aware a wind has come up. But it was snuggly in our beds and no one thought any more about the weather.
In the morning the wind is blowing straight out to the gulf. During the night before the pattern would have blown the boat to the south end of the bay where sandy beaches offer protection. But, once into the gulf there was little hope of finding her.
Kev and I formed another search party and with wind howling we drove back down the beach into the village. We stopped and talked to as many folks, locals and tourists, as we could. At Guillermo's he offered to put the alert on the radio that the bay uses for communications. He asks if there is a reward, a concept I hadn't considered.
"Two hundred dollars." I sputter, unprepared. The boat and motor are worth $5000, I'm calculating.
Kev and I leave Guillermos and head for the south end with limited expectation and massive hope. We check every beach and cove, every rocky point, every bay, lagoon and nook. Nothing. We return to camp, check in for any incoming information. Nothing. We decide to check La Gringa and points north and pack the entire crew and spend the day there.
We searched the entire bay for three days. Nothing.
Early in the day on Tuesday I'm returning in the truck from somewhere. Kevin and Mary Ann and I head of on a trip to Gecko to visit with those there. Kev's driving. He pulls off the pavement as we pass through the village. He drives up the street on the north side of the Plaza, and past the museum and pulls into the yard of the local fisherman/locksmith and shuts off the engine.
"What're we doing here?" I ask.
"There's our boat." He points to an aluminum boat tucked away between sheds and old equipment. "The motor's safe and we have all the tackle that was in it, even the tank and gas."
"I guess it was found on the south point and brought in from there," Kev says. "Paulina caught the news on their local radios. And David and Debra spotted the boat in the village when they were hauling it in. They told us.
Now that I've heard the story and it's beginning to sink in, a fellow exits the house in whose yard we're parked. We introduce ourselves and find that he has found our boat, early today and perched on the southern point of Bahia de Los Angeles, struggling to work its way into the open gulf. The man's name is Miguel Murillo.
He shows me the slight damage to the stern and the undamaged motor, sitting on a small patio at the rear of his house, along with oars, fishing poles and reels, lures and gas. Everything is safe and for the first time in several days I'm not worrying any longer about the boat. In a situation like that, with so much happening in so many directions the worry can become buried by other activities. But it never stops gnawing at you. Now the gnawing has stopped.
"Do you know about the reward? I asked Miguel.
"It would be very much appreciated." He said.
I had come unprepared in the dollar department. I grabbed my wallet. It contained $100. I had offered $200. Circumstances caused me to want to give him $250. I gave him the $100 and asked if we could take the boat now. I would drive to Guerrero Negro tomorrow to get the additional money. He said that would not be a problem. I returned to camp, hooked up the trailer and Kevin, Miguelito, Miguel and I loaded the boat, motor and gear. Kev and Carly wanted to go out the next morning. We spent a moment shaking hands all around and headed back to camp.
The trip continued on schedule and course. We revisited La Gringa and Camp Gecko and spent time with pals. The last two days were quite windy and our boat never did see any more water that trip. Doc told us we could use his internet access to get the money we needed.
Late one night, after the early dark of December and January at the bay, Mary Ann and I dropped by Gecko to find Doc. We met up with him at his home and used PayPal to get money for bailout of the bay the next day. And enough to pay Miguel his reward.
In a small, isolated village in Baja a man had found a boat, abandoned at sea. In the U.S and perhaps in Mexico, that boat belongs to the finder. But Miguel brought it back to me. On top of that, he was willing to trust me to take the boat and wait for reward when he didn't know me.
These types of behavior occur in small communities, large cities, tiny ghettos and so many varied environments around the world.
And this one happened in the village of Bahia de Los Angeles. In Baja California, Mexico.
Gracias a Usted, Senor Miguel Murillo. Un hombre muy honrado.