Oh boy, this was a purpose-built paradise for college kids, singles and couples clinging on to their pre-couple era. To sum up Cabo in a sentence, it made me feel old! It was alive with bars, booze, babes and fishing boats. The sharks were prowling in the streets, complete with fresh-out-of-the-store "I love Cabo" tank tops, beers in hand and dollar-off coupons for the next restaurant. It was encouraging to see that the women all abided by the local city ordinance, namely to wear as little as possible while cruising the town. It is a hustlers utopia; arms reach out from nowhere to pull you into each restaurant and bar; - "amigo, I have the best tacos for you", "no gracias", "my friend, you wanna go parasailing?", "no gracias", "SCUBA diving?", "no gracias?", "jet skiing?", "no gracias", "water skiing?", "no gracias", "golfing?", "no gracias", ...... as we carry on walking they fade away calling out trying to strike the one chord that excites your interest.
Exhausted from the two day passage, we voted to take a slip in the marina, hose down the boat, have showers and go get lobster. The first bit worked well since they had water, apparently unlimited amounts. Not sure where in the desert it came from, but we heard some rumors of desalination. If that's the case, then it may explain part of the whopping $44 per night slip rent for a 35 foot boat! As for the lobster - beware in Cabo if the menu says "market price". Roughly translated it means - whatever will empty the gringo wallet. With fish tacos at $6 compared to $0.50 in Ensenada, we settled for the safe alternative -burgers, fries and a beer for $6. Not a bargain, but it made In-N-Out seem like cardboard in comparison, and after 1000 miles of sailing, it made dinner at Ruth Chris's seem like nothing.
The marina was a very modern facility, with computerized reservations (the first PC's I had seen since San Diego), full travel-lift facilities and marine center. Still, it was too pricey for us, so off to the anchorage we went and dropped our trusty hook in front of the big hotels. We rapidly learned that bass sound from 12' high speakers at the beach bars, traverses 500 yards easily with no attenuation. In fact I would go so far as to say that the water acted as a huge amplifier, treating little Sojourner to vibrate rattle and roll day after day. To calm our nerves Jen and I jumped into the dingy and headed off to Los Arcos to do some fishing. With Jen at the outboard, I was trolling a little green Rapalla with my bait rod, just 10 yards from the most southern tip of Baja. Within a couple minutes It seemed to catch on the rocks, so I asked Jen to swing the dingy around quickly to avoid dragging all the line out. Only problem was, we could never catch up with the rock .... it was moving at the same speed as the dingy! Out came my fishing grin, whoops whistles and adrenaline. I had hooked something fast and powerful on 4lb line. Round in circles we went, it dove, came back to the boat, and in a silver flash, dove again. All we knew was that I had to wear it out slowly and completely since we had no net, gaff or bucket. After 25 minutes we got this "thing" alongside, and I was sure it was a Wahoo. I managed to grab its tail with one hand, holding the rod with the other and drag it into the dingy. Straddling it with both knees, I pinned down my big toothed monster to stop him flipping back into the Pacific. We later identified it as a Mexican sierra, good eating and a solid 12lb packed with meat. We had barbecued steaks, sushi and the most incredible ceviche you could imagine. I loved Cabo and needed the T-shirt.
The resort seems to be built with American dollars for the Americans; there's Planet Hollywood, Burger King, Budget Car rentals, ATV rentals, information centers manned by Americans, and a large portion of the staff fresh off the plane from Southern California. You name it, you can do it. They'll drag you a 100 feet up on a parachute behind a boat; on a huge inflated sausage behind a boat, on a wakeboard, skis, bare feet, anything you ask as long as you have dinero. Problem is they do this through the anchorage to the disgust of the "cruisers" trying to relax en-route to and from the Sea of Cortez. I decided after this trip I will spend a couple years of my life developing a jet-ski-seeking missile that can be concealed on the bow of sailboats. It's pod will be camouflaged outside with sail material, and it will be programmed to self launch if a potential target comes within the 200' zone. The missile will drop quietly into the water and accelerate beneath the surface. At about 150' from the target it will burst through the surface from the opposite direction and home in on the rooster tail, drop down to inches above the water using pelican gliding techniques, and shoot straight up the jet outlet. The explosive head would be of sufficient power to disintegrate the jet ski and send the pilot at least 30 feet into the air, but would be sufficiently cushioned to prevent serious physical injury.
At last we decided to take the boat apart and get our snorkel gear out. It was under everything in the aft cabin, so after much swearing and throwing things around, we piled it into the dingy and headed over to Seal Rock. The sheer numbers of fish was staggering. Huge shoals of Grunts, Panamic seargent majors, Cortez angelfish, Yellowtail surgeonfish and delicate Moorish idols with their vivid black and yellow stripes, circled around us. Giant triggers roamed in search of morsels and Guineafowl puffer fish hovered under every overhang. They were very tame, and some of the puffers even allowed me to pet them. Small clumps of coral were attached to the rock surfaces, giving the whole scene a tropical feel. And yet we were only a thousand miles south of San Diego. But the water was cold, they told us it was 12 degrees below normal because of La Nina, and at the surface it was only 71. Five feet down it was in the mid sixties and at 80' only 54 degrees - ouch! We wanted 80 degrees at 80 feet, so Cabo wasn't going to satisfy our dream of tropical diving.
Our sense of vulnerability and fragility in the ocean was heightened while in Cabo. Two days before we left we listened to a search and rescue on the VHF for a woman that had fallen overboard the fishing vessel Red Rooster, about 6 miles directly out from Cabo. We heard conversations between the captain of the US research vessel "Knorr", that just happened to be in the area at the time, and the captain of the "Red Rooster". You could feel the sadness and pain in the voice of the "Red Rooster" captain as they followed a search pattern under the direction of "Knorr". They searched all day with optimism and a sense of purpose. The intricate navigation technical details of the search pattern must have occupied their minds and blotted out the image of a woman treading water and screaming to the vessels she could most likely see on the horizon. A coastguard aircraft joined the search but had to call it off around 6pm due to fuel limitations. The pilot calmly congratulated the "Knorr" captain, on his incredible efficiency and professionalism. These men are at ease with searching for frail lives in the ocean, but must raise above the emotional level so that they can command complex craft and follow logical patterns. As sundown came and the voice of the "Red Rooster" captain came over the radio, many emotions in the anchorage at Cabo sank deeply. He conceded to "Knorr" that they must call it off for the night. What he conveyed in his voice was much more; the pain and anguish of knowing that a woman from his vessel was alone in big seas, perhaps clinging to the last vestiges of energy, comprehending she would probably not see the morning. Sunset that night was for us, and many sailors, a solemn occasion. We looked out to the huge Pacific swells on the horizon, wondering what had passed through her mind as she watched the "Red Rooster" motoring away from her and as the ocean expanded into loneliness. Treading water, trying to keep head above water and starting to battle the thought that rescue might not come in time. Ships on the horizon may just as well be on a different ocean; they can be one mile away and stand only a chance in a million of spotting a person. It was all of our nightmares played out in front of us. None of us slept well that night. The next day they continued the search but, at least while we were there, nothing was found.
So it was, our quick overnight stop turned into 6 days as we waited for several cold fronts to pass. San Diego was getting pummeled by rain, and we were hit with constant wind and big swells wrapping around the cape into the anchorage. On day 5 we received a weather fax with two big back-to-back highs on their way, and began to get the boat ready for the trip into the "Sea".