Update # 22 – Mutiny on the Fubar

Our first project yesterday was fueling at the marina in Cabo San Lucas.

While being fueled I was approached by a gentleman who introduced himself as being a Nordhavn fan, and wondered if he could get a tour of the boat. Usually I say no, but he seemed a good guy, and I had nothing to do while waiting on the fuel. He then asked if his friends could come along and we wound up with several couples. They were guests of the owner on the mega yacht fueling in front of us, and very nice people. I suggested to them that my boat might make a nice tender for their mega yacht. It was strange to think of them wanting to see our boat, which looked pretty tiny sitting next to theirs, but Nordhavns have quite a following.

I was surprised by the cost of fuel, and at first thought I had been undercharged. We consumed 1,250 gallons during the run from San Diego (this includes running the generator 24 hours a day for two weeks), and the bill for fuel was almost exactly $3,000. This works out to about $2.40 a gallon. Certainly not cheap, but given Cabo’s usual tendency towards high prices, I was expecting something closer to $5 per gallon.

Leaving the dock was an adventure. Cabo is heavily tourist-focused, and the marina reflects this. In addition to the hundreds of fishing boats that go in and out of the marina each day, there are “booze cruises” (catamarans, pirate ships, sail boats and more) usually topped by loud music and drunk tourists, jet skis, water taxis, yachts, mega yachts, passenger ferries for the cruise ships, etc – all of which have to fit through a fairly narrow entrance to the marina. Sans Souci is new, and I’m still nervous when pulling away from the dock. Having dozens of little boats that I had to work around was frustrating. One water taxi, carrying about 20 passengers cut directly in front of me without warning.

Our goal for the day was the short run to Puerto Los Cabos, just 20 miles north. We decided to make the run from the fly bridge and take our time. I ran at only 8 knots and watched for anything jumping in the water. We saw marlin and manta rays. We also checked out all of the new hotels and construction along the beach. I’ve been watching Cabo grow for 10 years, and am still shocked at how fast it is growing. It was the first time I had cruised for more than a few minutes from on the fly bridge. Historically, I’ve never liked running a boat from the fly bridge. It’s too windy and too noisy. Thus, when picking the electronics for the boat I told the electronics company “Put the bare minimum to get by on the fly bridge. I’ll never actually drive from there.” This was a mistake. The fly bridge was awesome. The view is outstanding, and the wind wasn’t at all a problem. My only prior boats with a fly bridge were sport fishers, where you travel at 20+ knots. On a heavy boat (we weigh 120 tons) moving at 8 knots, it’s a completely different experience. My only disappointment was the limited electronics. I had everything I needed to get the job done, but more would have been nice. Specifically, I had no access to the Sonar, one of our two radars, the monitoring system for the boat, or a second vhf radio.

Puerto Los Cabos is near my home in San Jose Del Cabo, and I have a long-term lease on a slip there. The marina has only been open a few weeks and only a few of the slips have been installed. None of the charts or maps on my boat even showed the marina as being there. The marina is part of a huge new development that spans 2,000 acres, with two golf courses (Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman), homes, condos, beach clubs and hotels. I have been watching the marina under construction for several years, and it was an incredible experience seeing it for the first time loaded with boats. Several boaters commented to me about the reaction of the locals. Most had never seen such a site! In a reversal of roles, we were the tourist attraction, with the local residents gathering to see all the yachts in the harbor. I wish I had gotten pictures, but with the excitement of entering the marina and hooking up the shore power I forgot to get out the camera. The picture above was taken prior to the “cut through” of the marina to the sea, and does not do the marina justice.

The lack of slips created a challenge for the Fubar boats. Many were asked to med moor. I am very lucky I wasn’t among those who were asked to med moor, because it isn’t easy – especially given the location selected. Med mooring is a technique used often in the crowded marinas of the Mediterranean, but rarely seen in the US. The idea is simple: Instead of each boat having a slip to park in, everyone just backs up to a wall, side by side, with only fenders to separate the boats. To keep the boats from being pushed sideways, each boat drops an anchor in front of their boat, and then backs up to within a few feet of the wall. The trick is in having just the right tension between the anchor in front, and the wall behind, such that your boat floats a few feet off the dock. Even in the Med, where the Med moor is standard, there is still enough opportunity for things to go wrong that boats med mooring often collects a crowd. For most of those who med moored yesterday, it was there very first attempt, and the crowd was well entertained, at the expense, and frustration, of those parking. I wasn’t there to see it, but have heard that several boats had to make repeated attempts, and frustration reigned.

I felt a little guilty entering the marina, in that I showed up last, but was given the best slip in the marina. Hopefully the other boaters will forgive me someday. I am confident in saying that the Puerto Los Cabos marina will be the best marina in Baja. When I first heard about the marina many years ago, I was immediately on the phone trying to lease a slip. My slip was the second slip leased, but only because the first went to the owner of the marina. Because my slip is amongst those still under construction, and because the owner’s boat isn’t at the marina for a couple more weeks, they gave me his slip.

Before continuing I need to comment on the professionalism of the staff at Puerto Los Cabos. This was the first time the marina had ever had a significant number of boats. They are clearly still under construction, and yet from my perspective no one seemed stressed out. Everything went smoothly and no boats were left at anchor. It was a class act. My compliments to Port Captain Jim Elfers and his staff.

There was one unusual event. All of the Fubar boats were subjected to an agricultural inspection. They were specifically looking for any fruits, vegetables or beef brought in from the US. This was not something I’ve seen before. I’ve been going back and forth from the US to Mexico for most of my life and never seen anything like it. Two inspectors boarded our boat. They were quite intense, but also very polite. Their visit seemed irrational in that the boats had already been into a major Mexican port (Ensenada) and several anchorages. Our boat had also been into Cabo San Lucas. We had purchased meat and fresh vegetables at Costco in Ensenada. How were they going to look at a banana and identify it as a Mexican Banana or a US Banana? We gave them some oranges, and explained that our meat had been purchased in Mexico. We then were blindsided by an issue that could have been a real problem. My wife Roberta had joined us on the boat, bringing our dog Shelby. While I was bringing the boat south, Roberta and Shelby were at our home here in Cabo. They thought Shelby had come down on the boat, and were insisting on seeing her dog papers. We were suddenly very worried that Shelby stuck sitting for the next month in a Mexican jail. Her papers were at our home. Luckily Roberta speaks good Spanish and we were able to talk our way out of it.

There was a Fubar event last night at a “not yet opened” restaurant on the marina. The people at the restaurant agreed to a pre-opening just for the Fubar group. We packed the place, and put in a valiant effort at depleting the Mexican supply of Margaritas. After the event, a group of us went to my house, and then on to a late dinner at a private beach club (Club 96) next to the Palmilla Hotel. As always, the best thing about boating is the boaters. The conversation in my corner of the table mostly centered on how to keep life on land under control, so that it wouldn’t interfere with the boating.


Isla Espiritu Santo, near La Paz

It was a bitter-sweet evening, because it marked the end of my personal Fubar experience. The Fubar group is continuing north to Bahia de Los Suenos, and then to La Paz. Roberta and I will soon be cruising south to Costa Rica, and we wanted some time at our home in Cabo before resuming cruising. I may drive up (about 3.5 hours each way) for the Fubar closing dinner, but we have guests here at the house, so it will be difficult. I cruised the area where the Fubar is going next and know how beautiful it is. The group is in for some major fun.

With this email, my “Fubar Blog” comes to an end. I hope you have had as much fun reading these blog entries as I’ve had writing them, and more importantly, I hope I’ve inspired those of you sitting at home reading about boating to get onto the water and go some place!

Finally, I want to thank Bruce Kessler who was the driving force behind the Fubar. When I saw him at last night’s dinner he was looking stressed out. I remember Jim Leishman of Nordhavn having that same look in his eye towards the end of the North Atlantic Rally. Until the last boat arrives at the finish line, safely, there is always the chance that something will go wrong. Having lived in Mexico for ten years I have perhaps a greater appreciation than most for what Bruce has accomplished. I love Mexico but would also admit that there are times when the infrastructure is lacking. It is amazing that Bruce was able to pull off getting us fed, fueled, and entertained. Prior to the rally I was absolutely convinced that we were going to arrive half way down Baja and discover that the promised fuel was not to be found. I had visions of boats breaking down and stuck waiting for parts for months. Bruce proved me wrong, and laid the groundwork for what I am confident will be a major new ongoing rally. I was very curious to get Bruce’s perspective on the future of the Fubar, so I had to ask the question. “Bruce. It’s my last night on the Fubar. I have to ask, and I know it’s the wrong time to ask, but what is the future of the Fubar? Will there be more?” He thought for a minute and said (Note: I’m paraphrasing his comments) “I don’t know yet. We’ll talk to the participants at the end of the rally and see what everyone thinks.” Then he continued: “My sense is that there will be future rallies, but I’m thinking that it will be an every other year event, not every year. Ask me later. It’s too soon to say.”

Bruce was not alone putting together the rally. A success such as the Fubar requires a lot of smart people all working hard. I wasn’t officially on the rally committee and never met most of the people who put together the rally, other than Bruce, and Donna Palmer Wilson, who was “the Secretary, Treasurer, Webmaster and all around coordinator of the pre-rally issues”. Donna and I spoke often over the past year as she worked her way through putting the rally together. I know that Donna and others were working as “unpaid volunteers”, and yet I can tell you that Donna and everyone else worked darn hard on making the rally a success.

I’ll do what I can over the next couple of days to collect information about the Fubar’s successful arrival in La Paz, but my guess is that I’ve now made the transition from Fubar-ee to civilian. If I do receive any info, I’ll pass it along.

For those of you who would like to continue receiving my blog reports as we work our way to Costa Rica, it will be January before we depart. At that time I’ll start sending out updates, and if you really don’t want them, just click the link at the bottom of any of my reports, and you’ll never be bothered again.

Thank you again! It has been a blast, and I wish the best to the Fubar participants, and congratulate them, and Bruce Kessler on a very successful rally!

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, Nordhavn68.com

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson