Barsam invited Melody and I asked Michael and
Kevin if they wanted to get up early and join us for a fishing
trip out of La Gringa and into the sweltering gulf. We planned
it the night before, just after dinner. Spirits were high with
the kids. Bar and I were 45ish. Mel was about 13, Michael 10
and Kevin 8. These were our children and we treasured
It was a clear and windless early morning when Bar
rattled our spineless tent trailer. I knew it was an
earthquake. I popped up spontaneously. Across the windowscreen
that we'd left open for the ventilation during the steamy night
I spot old Barsam's beady eyes.
"Are you ready?" he asks.
"Whazit look like?" I respond. We should have hit the
sack before midnight but the rustling shoreline is a pretty
attractive place that late, moon and stars and all the
I struggle out of bed at the far end of the trailer
at 5 in the morning, climbing over bodies, trying not to
disturb, and pull a pair of floor-strewn jeans over sagging,
boozy muscles, cinch up a belt and throw a dirty shirt over my
shoulders just in case. Hat? Oh yeah.
Bar and I thought
waking the kids up would be a real deal but they were ready and
waiting. We loaded gear in the boat and we're off.
nowhere on the parched surfaces of this earth that I've been as
great as this place so early on a calm morning. We deviate a
bit from our usual fishing habits to support the interests of
the young on board. We head east to seal island. Ten minutes
later we're looping the small almost-two-islands island. Sea
Lion bulls are barking and cows are frolicking under the hull of
our 14-foot tin boat with all of a 15-horse motor. Our kids are
mimicking the bull barks.
Soon this wears down and becomes
routine and we head further out toward Piojo where we idle a few
minutes at the southwest end and peering down into the clear
blue and sparkling-in-the-morning-light water, watching the
firecrackers and bottom-grabbers hanging out below amongst the
naked bottom rocks and swirling-with-the-currents seaweed,
mellow in their undisturbed environment.
Then the five of us
are steaming north up the gulf side of Smiths, hanging up on the
southbound tidal floes and bobbing like a cork in my low-end
barge. It took us some time to negotiate this piece of water.
The weather was changing; the tides working against us. We were
getting tossed a bit and the kids' eyes were less reflective
that they had been. No sweat, Bar and I are telling them. They
We round the north end of Smith's and head
west and then are working south down the Baja side of the island
and the weather has turned hostile. We cling close to Smith's
shore but know we'll have to cross sooner rather than later to
avoid the long sealeg. Wind is now whipping at maybe 40-50
knots, come up just now and the water has turned white on top.
There's no seeing below that. There's no way to know where it
goes from here. We motor to mid-island and at the place where
Smiths comes closest to Baja we crop the prop and head there.
Immediately the water is rough and we're bouncing and tacking
but the most direct and safest route is straight across and
that's where we want to be. But the closer we get into the
straight route the more water we're taking over the bow and
sides of the tiny boat. Bar is, then I am driving. It's nasty
weather and our children are on board. Then the wind hits
higher. Water if flying horizontally into the boat, our faces.
The boat is filling and heavier in the water and we are slowing
due to the excessive drag. Bar pulls the bung but our speed is
so slow that we take on rather than release onboard water. We
speed up a bit trying to compromise between water taken in
versus water forced out. All is white now across the horizon.
Waves pound us, spinning the light craft at will. We are past
drenched. But through my soggy eyes I spot the Baja shore.
Never a more welcome sight.
The squall continues even as we
coast south toward La Gringa. We're still taking on water big
time even as we work south along the peninsula. But the weather
was behind us and we sensed that we were safe. Then, somehow we
were inside a fishing contraption, a mile-long series of rigs,
and couldn't exit south and the boat is sinking and our children
are on board, our protected ones and Bar and I need to take some
action and there is nothing to do except to grab the kids and
swim for shore and hope we can pull it off and the wind is
howling and the waves crashing and we are trapped inside this
fishingnet deal and unable to escape.
But when you're nearing
the end of your rope it's often rewarding to find your mind is
more interested in self-preservation than you are. Barsam,
looking into the white ocean spume spotted the place where we
had entered into this fishtrap, this swirling drain from an
ocean into infinity that we have dreamed, held intimately in our
nightmares. Barsam directed us out and back into the deeper
water where there was less chaos. We were only three miles from
La Gringa, that place where we had learned to look back toward
from the sea and land and welcome the sight of. And we were
soon sitting amongst family and friends and telling of our
I'm not sure though that the entire truth was
realized by any of us. Melody, Michael and Kevin might remember
this story for a year or so and then it would fade from memory.
It became a good story and then faded further into obscurity.
Barsam and I bring the incident up to each other and others
across so many years occasionally. It was a trying moment.
But, most importantly innocence was at risk. And as a parent I
learned to test to yet another level my ability to protect those
around me that I love.