This question refers to a "stack" rising about 10 feet out of
the water in the La Paz channel, just north of the Gran Baja
Hotel. The stack has a navigation light on it, but the angle of
the stack suggests something other than just a support for the
A general answer to this question is something I can provide:
the stack belongs to a sunken ship. This much I know from
frequently kayaking around the area.
However, the details of the wreck, and how it got there are much
more interesting than this simple statement, and for these
details I consulted my friends, Richard and Mary Lou Adcock.
Here is the story they passed on:
By making some associations with known dates, Richard and Mary
Lou believe the year was probably 1972. The ship involved was
the "Don Lorenzo," a small WWII surplus freighter.
This type of freighter had ferried supplies from Seattle to
military bases in the Aleutian Islands. The ships were about
200 feet in length, with two cargo holds. Each ship had a tall
mast with two lifting booms for the loading and unloading of
cargo from these holds.
When the Don Lorenzo met its fate, the ship was carrying
a load of aviation gas in barrels down in the holds (an
extremely unsafe place to be carrying gasoline!). The fuel was
being delivered to La Paz, and the ship had tied up to the City
Pier (Muelle Fiscal).
The morning the unloading was to begin, two crew members were
assigned the task of opening the covers on the holds while the
other crew members were eating breakfast. Then the entire crew
could get started unloading the fuel immediately after finishing
Perhaps one of the crew members opening the hatch covers was
smoking. For whatever reason though, during the opening process,
there was a tremendous explosion in the hatch area. The two crew
members opening the hatches were instantly killed. Because they
were elsewhere on the ship eating breakfast, the rest of the
The ship quickly burned and sank at the City Pier, however fires
continued burning for three days as aviation gas bubbled to the
surface, only to be ignited by the fire already burning above
the water. Barrels of fuel floated loose and, while still
burning, became dangerous floating "tiki torches."
The ship had settled against the pier, effectively blocking use
of the pier by large vessels. The problem of moving the Don
Lorenzo away from the pier was not solved for several
The tall mast had to be cut in order to free the ship from the
pier. Once that was accomplished, using the tides and a barge
with a self-propelled crane, the remains of the ship could be
lifted and carried off.
But where to put this wreck?
At that time there was very little to what is now the south end
of La Paz. No "Little Abaroa's" boat yard, no Gran Baja Hotel,
etc.. Richard and Mary Lou's ship, the Marisla II, was
practically the southern-most point along the La Paz
The newly acquired Marisla II was tied to a buoy off the
property the Adcocks had bought "way outside town." The wreck of
the Don Lorenzo was then carried just past this last
outpost of La Paz, and dropped to the bottom.
A navigation light was eventually placed on top of the Don
Lorenzo's mast. It is the remnant of this mast which may
now be clearly seen protruding from the water just north of the
At low tides, the top of the wheelhouse can be seen just
breaking the surface of the water. Taking a kayak to the wreck
allows a fairly clear view of the wheelhouse area, although the
tides can stir the water up making visibility poor.
Over the years a substantial sand bar has built up around the
wreck. Also building up has been that area of La Paz. Pleasure
boats frequently use that end of La Paz for anchoring, and so
the navigation light on the mast of the Don Lorenzo has
become a necessary marker.
Fred Metcalf (Details and photos provided by Richard and Mary Lou Adcock)
(Written September, 1998)