A night visitor
04 February 2017 | San Rosalia, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
After living on a boat for a few years I think it is extraordinary how attuned your senses become to your surroundings. It is not simply a matter of being a light sleeper, however I doubt that the many skippers are heavy sleepers. Frances can attest to the conditions under which I have been able to sleep including, apparently, rolling at anchor almost from gunnel to gunnel - no problem it would seem. So it's not just noise but also movement and smell that can trigger the need to be conscious. If your senses tell you that there is something out of place or something has changed then you start to wake up. In that time of being semi-awake, your conscious brain attempts to determine what has changed without actually requiring full consciousness. If you are able to attribute what you have sensed to something that is benign or expected then you tend to drift off again. It can be something from inside the boat like the almost undetectable hum of a pump running or it can be a change of wind speed and/or direction. Anything you are unable to explain or if something needs checking, then you have to do so, there is no excuse for laziness - that's how you get yourself and your boat into trouble.
So one very quiet and still night, around one a.m. in Santa Rosalia harbour we were soundly asleep when I heard a noise my subconscious couldn't explain. It was the very faint noise of small ripples against the hull. In my half sleep it sounded like ripples bouncing back between two objects sticking out the water near each other. As Monkey Fist is a monohull this made no sense so up I got to check it out. Not really expecting to see anything I was surprised to find a young male in a punga (fishing boat) alongside Monkey Fist. I shouted at him and he mumbled something and pushed off from our boat. He didn't have any paddles or oars, believe it or not, he was using a full plastic bottle of water and a hooked metal rod to propel the boat.
He had obviously been intent on mischief.
He kept his head down so I couldn't see his face clearly. Before he was very far away I took some photos of him and then kept our extremely bright LED torch on him until he made it to shore and disappeared into the night and we eventually fell asleep again. The next day we saw the same punga motoring past with two guys on board and so I waved them over. It turned out they were fishermen who were the owners of the boat and had earlier received a call to tell them that the boat was drifting out at sea and so they managed to go out and retrieve it. It was the 7th time this had happened to their punga. I told them what had happened the previous night and showed them the photographs of the guy, which, at their request, I downloaded onto their mobile phones. We thought that the photos were good enough for someone who actually knew the guy to be able to recognize him - but the owners didn't know him. When they returned to shore all the other fishermen were crowded around looking at the photos. I had intended to report the incident to the Port Captain but as luck would have it, the next day was a holiday, however, I have no doubt that the fishermen would have found the guy and he would be reluctant to do it again.
Would we go back to Santa Rosalia ? Of course we would. We wouldn't let the actions of one fool turn us off. It was an authentic non-tourist Mexican town, just how we like'em - friendly people, fish tacos and dust.