by Jim Foreman
The winch on the truck began to grind slowly as it lifted the heavy diesel engine upward from the hold of the boat. When it swung high in the air, the truck pulled forward and deposited its load onto the ground. Carlos Garza stared into the vacant space which had held the diesel engine. The next task was to fit the much smaller engine from the pickup truck onto the mounts which had supported the diesel. Installing the pickup engine would take several days of precious time as the Marlin were already running and rich gringos were flocking to Los Cabos. Carlos needed to earn some of the money which they were willing to spend in search of a trophy fish to hang on the wall of their den. Carlos needed that money to buy repair parts for the diesel.
Carlos and Luis worked from dawn to dark as they formed the hardwood mounts, installed them in the boat and bolted the pickup engine in place. After that, came the hours of connecting the many lines, wires, cables and levers necessary to adapt the strange engine to the fittings which had operated the diesel. Instead of going home each night, even though it was not very far, they slept and ate on the boat. Finally, the installation was completed and Carlos pressed the starter button. The pickup engine came to life and purred sweetly.
After checking everything carefully to be sure that the engine was operating properly, Luis cast off the lines and Carlos shifted the transmission into reverse. The boat backed slowly from the dock and swung around in response to a spin of the wheel. He moved the shift lever to the forward position and the boat began to pick up momentum.
At half power, there came a strange vibration which hadn't been present with the diesel engine, but it didn't seem to pose any particular danger. They moved out across the protected harbor and upon reaching the open water, Carlos advanced the throttle to full power.
Since the pickup engine had far less power than the diesel, the boat would only plow through the waves instead of climbing up and running on top of them. "While I'm using the pickup engine in the boat, I'll only be able to bring fishermen out in fairly calm waters," Carlos thought to himself. "If the winds blow hard and the waves run high, I won't be able to make headway against them."
On the way back to the dock, Luis suddenly shouted from the engine compartment, "Papa! We are talking on water very rapidly."
"Where is it coming from?" shouted Carlos.
"The shaking of the engine has broken the cooling intake pipe and sea water is pouring in. The pumps can't keep up with it."
"Can you fix it?" shouted Carlos.
"It is beneath the engine and I cannot get to it with the engine running. We will have to stop the engine," replied Luis. "And if we stop the engine, the pumps will stop working and we will soon sink."
Water gushed in through the three inch hole with such force that it was more than a foot deep in the belly of the boat by the time they reached the docks where a large pump could be used to keep the boat from sinking. Luis dove over the side with a large wad of rags to plug the water intake. Once that the big pump had been hooked up and was working it lowered the water level enough to allow them to get to the fitting. Once that they were able to get beneath the engine, it was a simple matter to make the repair.
"I felt a strange vibration with the new engine," said Carlos. "That must have caused the fitting to come loose. Perhaps we failed to tighten it properly when we installed the engine."
When strong winds blew in from the Pacific Ocean and the waves ran high, Carlos had to stay in port and watch while other boats took the rich Americans out to fish for Marlin. The only thing that he could do to make money at times such as these was take tourists on sightseeing cruises along the coast to see the famous wrecked Japanese fishing trawler which had run aground about six miles to the east in a place which was now called Shipwreck Cove.
The west winds were blowing hard when they arrived at the docks and whitecaps could been seen on the waves outside the harbor. Carlos looked at them for a few minutes and told Luis, "Put out the sign for sightseeing trips. It's much too rough for us to go to the open water."
Luis went to the parking lot at the docks and put up the sign which announced, "SEE THE WRECKED SHIP. Sightseeing Boat Ride $10.00. Come to the Bluefin." As he finished setting it up, a shiny Cadillac drove up and two women got out. The older lady looked to be about his father's age and the other, who appeared to be Mexican, was his age.
"Buenos dais, Senoritas. Como se usted?" Luis said in greeting.
"Muy bueno, gracias," replied the younger one with a smile.
Rebecca made the introduction, "I'm Rebecca Crenshaw and this is Maria Ortiz."
Soon, two other couples, who were also interested in a sightseeing ride, came to the boat. One of the men said, "I'm Brother Robert and this is my wife, Sister Nancy. Our last name is Ewell and our church sent us to Cabo San Lucas on our mission. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons."
The other man said," This is amazing, My wife, Gloria, and I are also missionaries. We are Jehovah's Witnesses who have been sent to Los Cabos. My name is Harland Hart."
"It is ten dollars for each person to go to Shipwreck Cove, or for twenty dollars each, we will take you all the way to San Jose del Cabo where you can have a nice lunch, do some shopping and then we will return this afternoon. It is a much longer trip and you will probably be able to see several whales," Carlos told them.
They all agreed to take the longer trip to San Jose del Cabo. As they pulled away from the dock, Carlos began to give them a running account of what they were seeing as they passed along the shore.
"This is Shipwreck Cove and you can see the wrecked ship up on the rocks. It was a Japanese trawler which would come in very close to shore each night to set lobster traps illegally. At daybreak, they would go back out past the twelve mile limit and into international waters."
"Some local fishermen found that the way that the Japanese were able to come so close to shore and find their lobster traps in the darkness was by using underwater sound buoys to position themselves. Divers found the buoys and moved them very close to shore. That night, when the big ship came steaming in, it ran onto the rocks and was trapped."
"It seems to be broken in half. Did it do that when it went ashore?" asked Harland Hart.
"No. They tried to pull it back into the water with a tug boat, but it was so hard aground on the rocks that it could not be moved. Over the years, Chubascos have beaten the ship to pieces. You'll also notice that several hundred people who come to Los Cabos for the winter have parked their motorhomes and trailers on the hills overlooking the cove."
He continued his running description of the shore, "You see the Hotel Cabo San Lucas high on that point of land. It's the nicest and most expensive hotel in all of Baja. There is also a landing strip for small airplanes just across the highway behind it." After they passed the high rocks with the hotel, he pointed to a small cove where palm trees grew, "My very good friend, Tomas Davis, an American who has been living here for several years, lives in that cove. When the engine in my boat failed, he loaned me the engine from his pickup to use. Had he not been so generous, we would not be making this trip now."
The six tourist left the Bluefin in San Jose del Cabo, had lunch, went shopping and returned for the scheduled departure at three in the afternoon. The winds had picked up from the west and the waves near the shore were running higher than they had been during the trip earlier that day.
Luis and Maria were sitting in the cabin, holding hands and talking softly to one another. The two missionary couples were in seats on the rear deck, watching for whales while Carlos operated the boat from the flying bridge.
Rebecca climbed the ladder to the flying bridge and sat down in the swivel chair beside Carlos. He was not what would be considered to be an especially handsome man in the classic sense, but he had a certain rugged, masculine attractiveness. The wrinkles in his face mirrored many years of exposure to the wind and salt spray. He wasn't quite as tall as Rebecca, but he had broad shoulders and strong arms. He stood easily at the wheel with his knees slightly bent, allowing the boat to pitch and roll under him as it followed the waves.
"Is Luis your son?" she asked.
"Yes, Senora, my only child," replied Carlos. "He just graduated from the university in La Paz."
"You and your wife must be very proud of him," said Rebecca.
"Yes," said Carlos. He crossed himself and continued, "But poor Rosita died before he graduated."
"I'm sorry to hear that," replied Rebecca.
Although Carlos was pushing the pickup engine at full power, they seemed to be making even less headway than normal. He called out in Spanish to his son in the cabin, "Luis, go below and see if anything is wrong."
"We are taking on water, Papa! The intake fitting has come loose again," shouted Luis from the engine compartment. "We already have more than a foot of water in the bilge."
"Can you fix it?" Carlos shouted back.
"Not unless we stop the engine," replied Luis.
"What is the matter?" asked Rebecca.
"We are taking on a little water," replied Carlos.
"Are we going to sink?" asked Rebecca.
"No, I'm sure that everything will be OK. Luis has started the pumps," said Carlos.
"We are taking on water so fast that we can never reach Cabo San Lucas," said Luis as he climbed to the flying bridge.
"Can't you go faster and get to Cabo San Lucas before it takes on too much water?" asked Rebecca.
"It will go no faster, Senora. My big diesel engine is broken and I am having to use the small engine that my friend loaned to me."
"What are we going do to?" asked Rebecca, who was now becoming rather alarmed at the turn of events.
"We are near the hippie's cove," said Carlos. "There is a good place where we can beach the boat. The tide will be going out and the hull will soon be above water, then we can make repairs."
"I'll go below and help with the hand pump," said Luis as he disappeared into the engine compartment.
"May I have your attention," Carlos shouted in English to his passengers. "We are taking on a little water and will have to beach the boat. There is no danger, but please put on the life jackets which you will find under the seats."