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Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Party (Boarded by the Mexican Navy)


After a single day 80 mile run north we are now in Bahia San Francisquito along with a small handful of other boats. After the heat and exhaustingly high humidity of Santa Rosalita everyone is thrilled to be comfortable again. The humidity level here is remarkably low in comparison to S.R. and there is a lovely breeze and the water is an amazing 12 degrees cooler. I had no idea I would appreciate 103 degrees in any form but this feels like heaven after the endless hours of sticky sweaty heat in town. The evening we arrived I was in the water three times before I even put dinner on the table.
I remember being told last winter that once we hit the summer months in Baja we would live by the humidity level but the warning just didn’t sink in. After all Baja is a desert, scant rainfall, cacti, lizards and coyotes. Aren’t deserts supposed to be dry? Not so during a Baja summer. Every night since we arrived in S.R. every surface in the boat has been damp. The cockpit seats stayed sticky, the exterior teak looked dark as if I had just hosed down the boat and every night when we would climb in to bed the sheets were moist and tacky and felt dirty and damp no matter how clean. (Cruisers hint: if you shake a bit of baby powder across the sheets before bed the sheets feel remarkably cool and dry beneath you.)
Shortly after we arrived in Bahia San Francisquito two other boats pulled in, both friends from our old docks at Seattle’s Shilshole Marina: Cindy and Adam on Bravo (a Kelly Peterson sister ship) and Sherry and Bob on Ponderosa so once we had all caught up on our rest the only logical thing to do was to have a party!

Sundowners in the cockpit are a time honored tradition with boaters that come with a few bits of protocol. First off everyone brings a snack though they can range from the simplest to decedent and extravagant. It’s not meant to be dinner though it often turns into that. Second, everyone brings their own beverage and ice is not provided unless the host offers(many boats don’t carry ice and those that do usually have it in short supply and pay for it dearly with high electrical use.)Third, unless specifically invited for dinner protocol calls for the end of the party to inherently come when the sun is setting and the anchorage is getting dark. That way everyone makes it safely back to their boats in time for cruisers’ notoriously early bed time -up with the sun, down with the sun, though that timeline is changing as the days of oil lamps and scant electrical supplies morph into modern boats with seemingly limitless electricity, flat screen TV’s and exhaustive movie libraries.
So, there we are in Bravos’ cockpit chatting about how wonderful it feels to be cool again and gobbling up goodies until we notice the Navy boat coming our way. An Armada de Mexico boat has been at anchor across the bay since the previous evening when we all arrived but we have seen little if any activity there until of course the party starts. They come across the bay in their warship complete with Uzi carrying crew. As they approach we figure we better switch on the radio (which we are not required to have on while at anchor) since it looks like they are going to try and board us. The Capitan calls and the conversations lead to a request for Adam to bring his papers via Bravos dinghy to their ship which he cheerfully does.

After a few minutes Adam returns and we resume the party while wondering exactly why they would only want papers on one of the three boats in the anchorage. A few minutes later they return this time in their dinghy while the warship hovers nearby intermittently throwing a large wake into the anchorage. When they return at first it seems like they have mistakenly come back. Why would they come to Bravo again? But, as it looks like they are intent on boarding fenders are quickly hung to protect Bravos paint and soon there are three armed officers aboard and they explain that Bravos’ paperwork is not in order in fact one of the papers they looked at earlier was “muy malo” ( very bad.)

With a bit of a group effort it is explained that the TIP Bravo supplied –Temporary Import Permit- was a photo copy. Which in itself is not a problem, but it is a color copy and should be in black and white only. A color copy is equal to a forgery and is muy malo and very illegal. OK. So while two armed men stand on deck and two armed men stand in their tender holding on to the side of Bravo as the war ship circles and throws a big wake the officer who speaks the best English goes through the list of papers again and ask to go below to check fire extinguishers, GPS and flares.
While the inspection is taking place a VHF call comes in from friends on Buena Vista (another Peterson sister ship) saying they are coming into the bay. We all sort of looked at each other and stated that as soon as Buena Vista rounded the corner the Armada would be off in pursuit but for now they were out of sight. In a few minutes the inspection is done and they are climbing into their tender and turning to the two other Captains present and indicating that it is now Island Bounds and Ponderosas turns.

End of party time to pack up and call it a night. Sherry and Bobs dinghy is tied closest so they climb in first and as they head towards Ponderosa the Armada de Mexico follows and Bill and I putt back to Island Bound to leisurely round up all the necessary paperwork and articles they are likely to want to inspect.

Contrary to nearly everyone we know Island Bound has never been boarded in the years we have owned her. With our numerous trips in and out of Canada, the Coast Guards heavy presence in the Pacific Northwest and even our entrance into Mexico no one has ever even done a safety inspection. We have heard lots of tales but somehow we slipped through unnoticed. We of course have all the documents we ever expect to need along with all the required safety and communications gear so a boarding is simply a formality yet can often cause an elevated stress reaction and response with many folks. The troops were busy on Ponderosa so we had plenty of time to gather everything together and even straighten up a bit. For us the inspection was simple and easy and in fact rather abbreviated. By the time the Armada reached us the enlisted men were yawning and obviously hot and bored while they carried on conversations about their weekend and tequila. The spokesman was polite and friendly and seemed to be doing nothing other than an obligatory inspection. They did no search and unlike the other boats they took no pictures (Bill thinks they had run out of film or memory in the camera.) They transferred some information off of our boats Documentation and out of our passports then thanked us and said goodbye.

Unfortunately while they held court with all of us our friends on Buena Vista sailed into the anchorage and were quickly relegated to inspection number four. I felt bad for Buena Vista because I knew how tired we had been when we arrived and how much all I wanted to do was slip into the cool water. They barely had their anchor in the mud before they needed to scramble to protect their paint job and start digging out their paperwork amidst the inevitable disarray after a long hot crossing.

P.S. By this morning there were now five boats in the main anchorage (three of which were nearly carbon copy Petersons) when yet another police presence appeared. They once again bee lined to Bravo (we joked and said that Bravo was easier to pronounce but Buena Vista sort of disintegrated that theory) nearly reamed his hull before he was able to hang some fenders and boarded once again. Same script different jurisdiction and then off they went to the inner harbor never bothering to approach any of the other boats. Then again it’s early yet, maybe they are waiting to see if we throw another party?


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