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Stories by Mike Humfreville

Heavy Weather    ( Posted January 9, 2003 )

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 them.

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 heavens.

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.

There is 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 thought otherwise.

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 adventures.

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.

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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