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The ports and anchorages along the coast of Baja California are very limited. There are only two natural harbors, Turtle Bay and Magdelana Bay, the latter being a main mating and calving ground for the Pacific Gray Whale. There are virtually no other places to stop along the entire seven hundred miles of coastline. We thought it would be better to save those two places for going back up the coast to San Diego after the season was over in Mexico for two reasons: (1) The ride south is easy as you are going with the current. The trip back up is much more difficult as you are going against the current, so these harbors would be welcomed rest stops going north. (2) We wanted to do a long off-shore trip without a stop. If we intended to cross an ocean, which would be a thirty-five to forty-five day passage, we surely had better be able to handle a week or so without a stop. A non-stop 700-mile trip would serve as a rehearsal.
We were going out to sea about three hundred miles from the coast, heading for Cabo San Lucas. This would be the first real test of my navigation skills and our ability to handle life on the open ocean.
We were ready. Magellan was loaded with the supplies we had put on board in San Diego. We couldn't hold much more in canned goods and supplies. The freezer and refrigerator were full. We topped off the fresh vegetables and produce. We had all the charts, and everything we needed. It was time to go.
We sailed from Ensenada and out to sea. This was as emotional as putting the boat into the water had been. It was a great and exciting feeling. We were overwhelmed with happiness and exhilaration. We were aware of the danger, but it was under control; we didn't even discuss the risks. We had already discussed them ad nauseam and now it was time to sail, enjoy the ocean and go for it.
Time soon becomes irrelevant on the ocean. The scenery doesn't change, but is vast and endless. You get a new perspective of the world. You no longer feel as self-important and egocentric as usual; you feel enveloped in the ocean, contained by it, but also in harmony with it.
We sailed under full sail for a couple of days without a hitch of any kind. We turned on the generator just enough to keep the freezer cold and to charge the batteries. I spoke with Al on the ham radio just to say hello, we are doing great, and goodbye. We watched the dolphins, the sunsets and sunrises, and it was fabulous.
It is difficult to convey how large the ocean really is. You cannot comprehend its size until you sail on it.
The colors are magnificent. People call the ocean blue, but it is much more than that. There are greens, yellows, white, black, and virtually every color of the rainbow. There are brilliant reds at sunset, and yellows and oranges of sunrise.
On our forth morning out to sea, we awoke with the dawn and went up on deck to have a cup of coffee, some fresh bread I had baked the day before, and a fresh papaya. We were watching the waves, consumed with sublime bliss and happiness. Barbara and I had been in many great and fantastic cities and resorts, and we had done many five star hotels. Never had we come even close to the joy we now experienced. We realized that we were going to be in Cabo in just a couple of days, and we wished it was a couple of weeks. We considered heading out to sea farther in order to extend the cruise.
Just then the radar alarm went off. We were jarred back into the real world. We knew by now that you do not procrastinate about anything - you deal with whatever it is at once. Fast. I ran down into the cabin to look at the radar. There was nothing visible on the horizon. The radar alarm stopped, and there was nothing on the radar screen. Strange, but maybe it was a large flock of birds or something.
This far out to sea, and being quite alone, we had the radar set on its maximum intensity. We wanted to pick up even a small target such as a panga. This is a small wooden Mexican fishing boat with one or two men. It is nothing more than a dugout canoe with a mast and a small outboard engine. These little boats go way out to sea to catch fish. When you see the poor quality of these hand-made boats, you are amazed that the fishermen have the guts to do what they do. Our concern was not about our safety from them, but their safety from us. If we were sailing at six knots and ran over them, we would sink their boat and feel no more than a bump. We had to be careful that big ships didn't run us down, and we had to be equally careful not to run down a smaller boat.
A panga has no radar or electronics of any kind. They hang a kerosene lantern from the mast at night as their only running light. They take out to sea only their water for drinking and hard biscuits. If lucky they will catch fish to eat. We were sure that the radar had picked up a panga. I went back up into the cockpit. No sooner had I stepped outside, the radar alarm went off again. I ran down again to take a look. Right at the edge of our twelve-mile radar range was a large target.
I tuned and adjusted the radar and attempted to figure out what the target was. Then the alarm went silent, and the target was gone again. This same thing happened two more times. The large target was in our radar range, and then out of it. I checked all of my weapons. I told Barbara that I didn't understand what was going on. I was nervous and anxious about what I was going to face. We should be prepared, so let's get everything off the deck and stowed. I put the strap of the shotgun over my shoulder and checked that it was full of shells. I put the multiple flare launcher in the cockpit and checked it.
The target was back again and now coming at us fast. It was doing somewhere around thirty knots, or about thirty-five miles per hour, which is very fast for a large boat. I was now sure it wasn't a Mexican fishing boat thinking about piracy. I was convinced that it was a naval vessel, but of what kind, and from which country? If this happened to us in the South China Sea, we would soon be dead. A Mexican ship might mean the same end for us. What was it doing, speeding up and backing off, and then coming at us full speed? At its present speed I was going to find out in less than ten minutes because its speed was not decreasing. Here it comes whatever it is. I was nervous and anxious. What is that target? What is he doing? And why? Most of the possible answers ended in bad scenarios.
Within five to six minutes we could see it on the horizon. It was a white warship. Through the binoculars I could see large guns on its foredeck. A white man of war? Very strange.
Just as I was able to see its color and large guns, the VHF radio sprang to life. "United States Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard to black hulled sailing vessel at magnetic course 156, speed six knots, identify yourself, and stand by to be boarded for inspection, over."
I was both relieved that it was a United States ship, and at the same time outraged and incensed. What the hell do they mean, stand by to be boarded and searched? No way Jose. We are on the high seas. This is international waters and the US Coast Guard has authority only to one hundred miles from the US Coastline. We were six hundred miles or more from the US.
I got on the VHF and responded, "Magellan, sailing vessel Magellan to US Coast Guard. We are in international waters and not subject to boarding under international law. This is Richard S. LeVine, Attorney at Law, California, and you are denied permission to board, over."
"United States Coast Guard to sailing vessel Magellan, you are flying a United States flag and are therefore subject to our jurisdiction, stand by to be boarded and searched, over."
"Magellan to US Coast Guard, you do not have authority to act on the high seas and you do not have the right to board and inspect our boat, over."
"United States Coast Guard to sailing vessel Magellan, we are now putting two armed launches in the water with armed boarding parties. You will be boarded and searched. Prepare to be boarded and you are not to be armed, not to be armed, over."
I tried a couple more arguments to the Coast Guard ship. Each time I received the same strong response. Barbara yelled down to me that she could see them lowering their launches with many men in each one, and that they were getting very close to us. I ran up on deck to take a look and she was right. Having a large warship bearing down on you is a very frightening sight. This made me even more angry, so I ran back down to object once more. My transmission was now an angry one, to which I got the following reply:
"United States Coast Guard to the captain of the sailing vessel Magellan, please take a look at our five inch guns, over."
I ran up on deck and saw the three huge five-inch guns lowering into position aimed at us. This was way out of control. I didn't think that they were going to fire at us, but they made their point very well. I was not going to win this argument, and big deal so they board us and search us. We had nothing to hide.
I called back, "Sailing vessel Magellan to US Coast Guard, welcome aboard, over."
"United States Coast Guard to captain of the sailing vessel Magellan. Thank you for your cooperation. Boarding party is on its way, prepare for boarding, over."
Before I hung up the mike I could hear the powerful engines from the launches alongside Magellan. The sailors were in full battle gear and each had an Uzi sub-machine-gun. The sailor in charge of the closest launch called to us on a loud hailer to maintain our speed and course and they would be putting six sailors on board in the boarding party. With great ease and efficiency they pulled along side, exactly matching our course and speed, without touching us, and the six-armed sailors were onboard Magellan.
The sailor in charge told Barbara and me to go sit on the deck. By now I was not going to argue any further, and we quietly complied. He assured us that they would not make a mess and that they would be careful. Two of the armed sailors went below to inspect, while one looked into the deck box and in the dinghy. Three of them stood guard over us.
Within a few minutes that seemed like hours, the leader came back on deck and said they had completed their search and would we please come below to show them a few areas. They wanted me to pick up some floorboards to let them look into the bilge. I complied. They wanted me to take stuff out of a few lockers for them to search. I did and they made a quick check. Thank you very much they said. We're done.
The entire mood now changed and we were all friends. They were full of questions about Magellan, about us, and about why we were out here alone. I happily answered all of their inquiries. They were very interested in exactly where we were. I showed them the chart displayed on the chart table in the navigation station. They seemed overly interested in a simple chart. I pointed out to them our course line which was plotted on the chart and showed them our exact position. I then asked them why they were so interested in our position, as surely they must know where they are.
They smiled and said yes the captain and navigator of their ship know exactly where their ship is, but no one else on a naval vessel knows where they are. Once they leave port they do not know where they are going or where they are. They were pleased to know. While we were having this conversation the VHF came to life again.
"United States Coast Guard to sailing vessel Magellan, captain, do you have any extra flour? We would like to trade you a box of fresh fruit and vegetables for some flour, over."
As it turned out we had an excess of flour. A yachting book had recommended that we take a certain amount of flour aboard. We had followed their advice and had lots of flour, more than we needed, and we could resupply in Cabo in a few days.
"Captain of the Magellan to US Coast Guard, happy to trade. We can give you a twenty-pound bag of flour, over."
"US Coast Guard to captain of the Magellan, thank you, captain, the produce is on its way. Sorry for disturbing your pleasure cruise, but we are on a zero-tolerance search for drugs, and we are under orders to board and search all vessels in this sector of the ocean. Thank you again captain, over."
"Magellan to US Coast Guard, you are welcome, glad to be of help, over."
The large box of produce arrived within minutes on the second launch. We gave them the bag of flour and they departed with smiles, handshakes, and compliments on the beauty of our ship. A couple of the sailors told us that it was their dream to sail their own boats on the ocean and how much they enjoyed the visit. Being boarded at sea by a man of war was an interesting experience, but we could have done without it, thank you very much.
We all waved goodbye, and they departed with the same ease and efficiency with which they had arrived. Barbara and I were amazed by the large launches which they were using. In the middle of each there was large steel safe which I have since learned is used for the drugs they find. The ship retrieved its launches very quickly and properly, and they were off. They gave us a few blasts on their large horn, and they were gone into the distance and out of sight over the horizon. The ocean was vacant and quiet again.
So the huge ocean was not as empty as we had thought it was. We talked about this boarding quite a bit. I will never forget the sight of the five-inch guns being lowered at us. That put many things about the use of power into perspective. Gunboat diplomacy had a new meaning to us. Where does a destroyer with five-inch guns go? Wherever they please. What do they do? Whatever they want to do.
We didn't think that the Coast Guard had destroyers; wrong again. We also didn't know that they operated six hundred miles from the United States, which obviously they do.
Very shortly after the destroyer was gone we were treated to a particularly great dolphin show with hundreds of dolphins from huge males to babies. We had never seen this many dolphins at one time. There were probably more dolphins in this one group than all the dolphins we had ever seen altogether. We talked and yelled to them and they performed in spades. They criss-crossed our bow, coming within inches of our hull but never touching us. They jumped and played for an hour or more. This large number of dolphins indicated that there must be lots of fish in the area. They hunt in packs in an organized fashion. One group herds the fish into the mouths of the others. In the clean clear water we could see down many feet below the surface when standing with the sun at our backs. What incredible swimming ability and control of their bodies. Fantastic.
By the time the dolphins were gone we were hungry. It had been quite a morning and more than enough excitement for one day. The Coast Guard had given us dozens of tomatoes, more than we could eat before they went bad. I made a huge salad using the tomatoes and the last of our lettuce, which was looking rather sad since we left San Diego. We put a frozen lasagna in the oven and had a great early dinner before the sun went down, and then we hit the sack. We had a king size bed in the most forward cabin of the ship. The only problem was it started out as a king size bed at its head, but narrowed down to about 18 inches at the foot of the bed. It followed the lines of the hull, which also comes to a point. It was a very comfortable bed with a large hatch over our heads that we would open in good conditions to watch the stars. This is heaven.
This berth was fine in nice conditions, but useless if it became rough. In big seas the motion of the boat would lift the bow and then drop it down again with force. If you were lying in bed you would be lifted off of the mattress six inches into a zero gravity situation. You would then fall back with the bunk coming up to meet you, often with some force. It hurt, and certainly you could not sleep under those conditions.
Right now, sailing along in the same direction as the swells, it was very comfortable. We were enjoying a nice steady breeze of about ten to fifteen knots of wind. We had full sails up which adds to the stability and comfort of the sail, and we were at a good angle to the wind. The gentle and smooth motion had us asleep quickly. Between the sea air, and the nice motion, you sleep like a baby. Even so, the slightest change in any of the conditions, the motion of the boat, the wind, the speed, would wake us both, and we would be up quickly, out of our berth, and fixing whatever it was. We had become highly acclimated and attuned to the motion of the water, and any change, no matter how slight, alerted us to take action. Usually such a change would be caused by a slight shift in the wind.
The swells along the coastline and even a couple of hundred miles out to sea are very consistent. They travel south. This is the same Japanese current which goes past California in its relentless circular pattern around the edges of the Pacific Ocean. These swells will end up back in Japan, and unless disturbed by a storm system or an earthquake, they are very reliable and constant. Right now they were true to form and pleasant.
When the wind shifts, it is usually a slight shift which requires pulling in a line a little bit, or releasing it a little bit. With the small adjustment made, and a check on the course, wind-speed and wind-direction, it's back to bed. The radar alarm is on, yet we'd always take a look at the screen which out here was empty of any targets.
The sky at night on the high seas is very special. With no lights of any kind from anywhere you see ten times the number of stars that you see on land. Even on land in a remote location you do not see the same detail of the stars as you see on the ocean. There are so many stars it is difficult to pick out the constellations, which are easy to see on the land. You get completely mesmerized by the stars. Once you start staring at the sky in the night, it is tough to stop. The grandeur and beauty of it all is enthralling. You try to take in as much of the canopy of black studded with the billions of stars. You find yourself alternating between studying one small part of the sky, and then trying to look at it all at once. It is hypnotic. The sky is so totally consuming and entrancing that you have difficulty pulling your eyes away from its spectacle and majesty.
It is great fun to pick out one very small area of the sky and to attempt to count the stars in just that one very small area. You give up quickly as it is beyond human comprehension. And you figure out you just can't do it. Then you look at that same very small area of the sky with binoculars and see tens to hundreds of times more than you could see with the naked eye, which is even more mind-boggling. You would think that you would tire of staring up into the sky. You do not. You cannot get enough of it. You are disappointed if there is a cloud that blocks your view. On nights with no moon it is even more spectacular as the sunlight which is reflected by the moon is not there to impede your night vision.
I miss the sunsets and sunrises on the ocean very much, but what I desperately miss the most is looking at the stars in the sky. Lying in bed and staring up at the huge numbers of stars, some very bright, and others not so bright at all, is breathtaking. And the next night you get to do it all over again. And, you get to enjoy the gentle motion of the boat rocking you as you sleep. And then, the next morning there is that sunrise and you change your mind and say, no, my most favorite thing on the ocean is the sunrise. That is, until the sundown, when you are watching the horizon carefully to see the green flash. If the sky is clear you will see it a couple of times a week. Why you don't see it every time on a clear day is unknown to me. This is a very pleasant confusion.
There was something to see all the time, but you inevitably miss a lot. You are busy taking care of the boat and its systems, and you have to cook and eat. How busy you are kept while sailing on the ocean is a constant subject of conversation among yachties.
Despite being busy, we made looking at nature a priority. A camera does not do justice to these sights. The many pictures we took of dolphins didn't even begin to capture the joy and beauty of the display they put on. Trying to take a picture of the stars would be useless. Sure, the photos can be a pleasant reminder of what you saw, but a pale and faint reminder, and very far from the real thing.
In addition to the visual thrills, there was the wonderful clean smell of the deep ocean, the sound of the wind in the sails, the lapping of the water against the hull, the cries of the occasional sea bird, and the taste of the clean salt air. Our senses were almost overloaded.
We had a lovely sail the rest of the way into Cabo San Lucas. This is a small fishing village at the very tip of Baja California. The roads to get there are impossible. They have a four-wheel drive race from Tijuana to Cabo, where most of the vehicles break down due to the terrible road. The trick is just to finish the race. No trucks can make it down this road, so everything comes in by ship. Since the people are extremely poor peasants and can't afford goods brought in by ship, there is almost nothing available except the locally-grown produce and locally-caught fish. This has been a very sleepy and remote place.
We had to time our arrival at Cabo during the morning because of the coral reefs and coral heads dotting the large natural bay. Barbara had to stand on the bow looking down into the water as I drove Magellan slowly into the bay, using the poorly marked charts which omitted underwater outcroppings and coral heads. In addition, depth soundings were often wrong. Hitting a coral head will easily sink most boats. Another reason for an early entry is that the wind is usually very calm during the morning, which allows for far better visibility into the water to avoid the dangers.
Barbara would shout out directions to me such as, "Ten degrees to port, over." I would respond, "Roger, ten degrees to port, over." If there was any doubt or any confusion, we would repeat the order and response. "Roger, that was ten degrees to port, over." "Roger, roger, over." Extreme caution and good communication without error is crucial at these times. If we were getting too close to a coral head, Barbara would say, "Go to neutral, over." Or, "Reverse, reverse, over." Then, when we were clear, "Forward in gear, over." The more we did this kind of exercise the better we got at it, until we began to actually feel competent.
The natural beauty of this place surprised us. It is dry and almost devoid of any vegetation. The scene is very desert like, as Baja California is mostly desert. There were a couple of dozen boats at anchor, all long distances from each other. There was lots of room to anchor and we followed the custom and kept far away from any other boats. It took us an hour or so to stow the gear and straighten up after the passage. When we were finished we put the dingy in the water, attached the engine, and motored into the town to check in with the harbormaster.
The dinghy ride was long, as there was both the outer harbor in which we were anchored and an inner harbor. The dinghy dock was full of yacht dinghies. The town itself was a pueblo. The buildings were made of adobe and mud brick. The streets were dirt, and very dusty. The stores, if you can call them that, were sad and very poorly stocked. We asked directions and found the harbormaster in a one-room building. Checking in was quick and easy.
We looked for a restaurant and were directed to an outdoor patio with a barbecue in cut-off oil drums. The smells were delicious and we sat down to eat. Everything was simple, basic, and delicious. The only thing the waiter wanted to know was what kind of beer we wanted. Beer in Cabo is actually cheaper than water. A bottle of beer is less than twenty-five cents. The Mexican brands are excellent and are served very cold with a quarter of a lime stuck in the mouth of the bottle. Mexican limes are small and tart. The beer is never served in a glass, you drink from the bottle.
It took less than half an hour to investigate the entire town. It was charming. We got a local map for diving and sights to see. We arranged with the locals to get a beer delivery directly to Magellan. Young kids in pangas service all the boats every day. They deliver cases of beer, fresh fruit, and veggies.
We learned quickly that the cardboard boxes which held the beer were breeding grounds for large Mexican cockroaches. We had no cockroaches on Magellan until that first beer delivery, but we did now. We had the cure. Mix boric acid powder with instant dried potato powder, then add water. Use a 50-50 formula. Mix into a thick paste, roll into small balls, and dry. Put the little balls everywhere. It kills the cockroaches. They go after the smell of the potatoes, eat the balls, and the boric acid kills them. They are cannibals and eat the parts of the dead cockroaches who have already consumed the balls, and then they die. It works like magic. We have given this recipe away all over the world and people thank us over and over. People for the first time in their lives are able to live without cockroaches. I don't understand why this simple, easy, quick, and cheap remedy for cockroaches is not widely known or used. I tried to do something about it, but the pesticide companies are uninterested because it is too cheap, and not patentable.
We liked Cabo and felt comfortable and happy. Shortly after getting back on board there was a knock at the hull. It was another yachtie from the SSCA. They had seen our burgee, and come over to say hello. We had them on board for a few beers. Beer was the main source of refreshment in Cabo, and for that matter along most of the Mexican coast. The locals cannot afford reverse osmosis water desalinization, but they can afford the beer.
We made plans with our new friends to have a picnic at one of the remote beaches in the area. They had a larger dinghy with a big engine so we got there quickly. It was a pure white sand beach, which seemed pristine and untouched. The snorkeling was fantastic in the clear water. The fish, coral, and underwater plants were beautiful. We loved it. Or rather I loved it; Barbara, although the expert swimmer, doesn't like to snorkel.
Our companions told us of another restaurant they liked in town and we agreed to meet there the next day for lunch. The restaurants were all pretty much the same, so you couldn't tell one from the other. The grilled fish was fresh, fantastic, and very cheap. You could have a complete meal, with beer, for less than ten dollars for two people.
We discovered that buying provisions for our return trip up the coast was going to be tough as there was so little for sale. The local people were charming and friendly. I have been told that since the time we were there, large modern hotels and restaurant chains from the US have moved in, and much of the na´ve local charm is gone. It is now much more commercial. More services are available now, but it is no longer the sleepy fishing village it was in those days in the 80's.
The next day our new friends were gone, sailed off. This is the way of yachties. You make a friend, or find some couple you enjoy, and then they are gone. Most yachties do the same thing we were doing, being footloose and free, without attachments. They move on when the mood suits them. And then another boat pulls in, and you have new friends for a day, or a week, or whatever.
David and Tiffany flew down to spend their winter vacation with us, much to our delight. We rented a car and enjoyed many small trips together. Our holiday with them was wonderful. They stayed until they had to return to school for the second semester.
After they left, we continued to visit all of the little coves and beaches, and I snorkeled at all of them. We would pack a lunch, together with a bucket of beers in ice, and go have a picnic. I was amazed at the wide variety of places to dive. I enjoyed the diving. Barbara was quite happy to sit on the beach and wait for me while knitting or reading a novel. I tried to coax her into the water, but she just didn't want any part of it. We tried every restaurant and bar in town despite the fact that they were pretty much the same, and we enjoyed just about every meal. We spent four months in Cabo and had a great time. We would often stop our dinghy in the middle of a trip somewhere just to look at the surroundings, smell the air and sea, and drink in the ambiance. Now cruise ships anchor in those pristine waters, and the town is overrun with tennis-shoed, Bermuda-shorts outfitted touristas. We were lucky that we went when we did.
Long walks along the beaches were peaceful. We started to be more adventuresome as to the remote places we went for me to snorkel. One day we decided to go out to a beach near the entrance to the outer harbor. There was a large and very interesting reef to explore, with many large rocks where the sea lions lived. I set off into the water and was having a great time looking at the multi-colored coral and fishes which competed with each other for the most brilliant colors and wonderful mixtures of bright colors, stripes, spots, and fins. I couldn't identify almost any of the myriad variety of species. I had a tropical fish book, but it was too overwhelming a task to look them all up. I was just going to enjoy looking at them, and not worry about their names.
I was lost in the natural beauty of the spot. I floated on the surface face down with my snorkel in place. I had lost all track of the time and distance as I moved along the reef totally engrossed. I wore my Rolex Sea Dweller watch at all times. This special Rolex is sealed with Argon inert gas injected into it. It is certified to go down to 1500 meters in the water. No one goes that deep, but the idea is that it is absolutely waterproof. It has a bezel, which you can turn and set so you know how long you have been in the water. I always set it, but then would forget to look at it, being so involved in swimming and looking. (This is the only piece of jewelry that has increased in value every year I have owned it. It is now worth ten times what I paid for it in Hong Kong in the early 1980's.)
I went around a corner of the reef and found myself face to face with an enormous male sea lion, along with a few of his buddies. They were checking me out. I knew how aggressive and dangerous they could be. There was nothing I could do but watch and hope they were not going to harm me. I floated on the surface face down with my snorkel and tried not to move quickly to frighten or alarm them. They each in turn came by to take a look at me and then quickly took off to cavort in the sea. Then they began to perform for me just like the dolphins do.
These huge blubbery animals, so ungainly and sloppy looking on the land, were supple, fast, and acrobatic in the water. They spun and dived. They played tag with each other and sped away with incredible speed into the depths, just to return with a flourish. They would come by me now and then, like a small child saying, "Did you see that, huh, did you see that?" Yes I did guys, show me some more. I was greatly enjoying this show and had totally forgotten how dangerous these animals are supposed to be. Many experts have told me how very lucky I was to escape with my life. These thousand-pound sea lions use head butts at high speeds as their defense mechanism. If they perceive you to be a threat, they butt you to death with their heads. They hate seals and whales. The only animal that eats them are killer whales, like the one we saw with the enormous fin in California.
I was very lucky that this was not the mating season, and that these were all males in the water at the time. The females had already given birth for the season and were snug up on the rocks taking care of their young pups. Therefore the males were in a noncompetitive mood and of no danger. This was playtime. It was just dumb luck that I encountered these sea lions at just the right time of the year.
I was now getting tired and cold, even though the water was warm. I had been in the water too long and it was time to get out. When I lifted up my head to see where I was, I was shocked to see how far I had come, and therefore how far I had to go to get back to Barbara and the beach.
I had fins on, and could cover distance quite easily, but I had a long way to go. It was probably a mile. I very slowly and quietly departed the sea lions. They had lost interest in me and didn't seem to care any more if I was there or not. Soon I was a nice distance from them and on my way back to the beach. My arms and legs were tired and feeling heavy. Somewhere along the way back I had bumped into a coral head with my knee. It was starting to hurt and throb. I couldn't look at it, and had to just keep swimming to get back ashore. I swam on, eventually arriving at the beach.
When I finally could stand up on the bottom in the soft sand I walked up the incline and out of the water. As I cleared the water I looked down at my leg, which was gushing blood. There was a very nasty, deep, and large cut on my knee. I didn't walk more than a few steps on the sand before I collapsed. I was semi-conscious. The gash in my leg didn't hurt very much. I felt it, but I was not in great pain. This was because my body temperature was low due to the extended time in the water. In addition, I was so overtired that I couldn't feel much of anything.
Barbara was on her feet running to me full speed and yelling, "You're bleeding, you're bleeding!" I had stained the sand red with my blood where I was lying. I was going into shock from the wound and the loss of blood. I didn't know how long it had been since I cut myself on the coral, but I must have lost a great deal of blood swimming back in the water.
Barbara took off her white tee shirt, tore it, and tied it as a tourniquet on my leg above the knee. She stated that she must get me back on board Magellan fast. She pulled me, held me, and virtually lifted me into the dinghy where I collapsed on the floor. She pushed the dinghy back into the water with great effort, as it takes a good deal of muscle to take the dinghy off of the beach and to put it back into the water.
When the dinghy was back in the water, she had to start the outboard engine. She had seen me do it numerous times, but had never actually done it herself. She fortunately had no problem and it began to hum away. We headed back to Magellan. I was now almost totally unconscious and was unable to function at all. Getting me up the boarding ladder from the dinghy and onto the boat was going to be a problem. Barbara could not lift me onto the deck. The fabric of the tourniquet was now bright red and starting to drip blood.
Barbara yelled at me as loudly and harshly as she ever had. "You must get up now and climb on board. Now!!" I started to stir but wasn't moving quickly. "Now, damn it, get up now and fast," she ordered me. Her tone of voice must of shocked me, because I found some energy somehow and struggled up the ladder and onto the deck, where I collapsed again.
Barbara ran below to get our medical supplies. She came back with her arms full of bandages and supplies. Once she had positioned me so that she could deal with my wound, she took off the wrapping and poured Betadine antiseptic solution on the wound and the surrounding flesh. At the same time she handed me a large glass of scotch whiskey together with two valiums.
With the alcohol and drugs and exhaustion and weakness, I did not feel a thing. Once Barbara saw the wound, she let out a scream. "I can see the bone!" She got out a needle and thread to suture up the open gash. She pushed in the needle, which I barely felt, and started to sew me up. It took her a few minutes to close the large cut. She then dressed the wound in bandages, telling me that it had stopped bleeding.
I was now able to move enough to get below with Barbara's help. Step by step she got me onto the large sofa in the main cabin, which was larger than a twin bed. She propped me up with pillows and made me comfortable. One more glass of scotch and I was out for the night.
I awoke the next morning with some pain in my leg, but I was able to walk and function. We went into town for lunch. I walked stiffly, but not too badly. When we returned to LA and my doctor friends looked at the scar, they were very impressed with the suture job Barbara had done on me. They said they could not have done better themselves, and did she want a job.
I stayed out of the water for a week, letting the wound heal. Due to the heat and humidity we spent a lot of time inside our cabin, all hatches closed and the air conditioning running. We watched movies on the VCR.
We had enjoyed Cabo thoroughly, but were ready to head north again to California. I got out my charts and pilot books and began to plan for our cruise north. We had about six weeks to make the trip before our Mexican visas expired and the hurricane season was upon us. It was time to leave Cabo San Lucas.