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December 1, 2014




It’s been cold and dreary here in Portland, and I’ve been thinking about a wonderfully sunny excursion Mrs. Chatterbox and I took several years ago. After cruising through the Panama Canal, we stopped in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California Penninsula. At the end of the pier was a tired old vessel. I’ve always been interested in vintage ships and once wrote a novel about the mysterious Mary Celeste. I was fascinated by the ship tied to the pier, and delighted to learn it provided rides, with an excursion about to depart.



The 1885 schooner was called the Sutherland. She needed a paint job and her rigging looked worn. She hadn’t been gussied up for tourists, didn’t wave a skull and crossbones or resemble a Disneyland ride with Captain Hook at the helm. She had an authentic quality, and I was delighted to learn this ship was used during the 1937 filming of Captains Courageous, one of my favorite films from Hollywood’s golden era. We paid a small fee and were thrilled to step where Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore and John Carradine had stepped before—Spencer Tracy won an Academy Award for his work playing Portuguese fisherman Manuel on this ship.


We boarded the Sutherland, were given ample cups of rum and chugged out of the harbor. We’d only traveled a hundred yards when, to my surprise, the noisy engine fell silent and our crew hoisted sail. I was feeling the rum when the sails billowed and the ship careened into the wind, lurching forward in the direction of El Arco de Cabo San Lucas—Lands End.


I’ve been on many boats and ships before, but I’d never experienced a sailing vessel. It was an atavistic experience that made me feel a connection with my seafaring ancestors. This worn and tired ship now galloped over the waves like a frisky colt. El Arco drew us to the southernmost tip of land, where the Pacific Ocean met the Sea of Cortez.


I smiled as dolphins escorted us over the azure waves. Gulls kited overhead, squawking greedily as they scissored across the Delft blue sky, engaging in dogfights as fellow passengers launched crumbs into the air.


As I write this, with dark rain pounding my window, I’m licking imaginary sea spray from my lips and feeling the invisible presence of the warm wind, like a benevolent hand pushing me forward, toward that magnificent arch. It’s a portal and I’m desperate to pass through it, to a place where my imagination tells me all things are possible.

“Well, it's not far down to paradise, at least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see…”
                                                                                                                    - Christopher Cross-
Our captain
I hope you have a nice voyage today, even if it's only an imaginary one.


what a fun adventure! I'd like to feel the warm sun on my face, hear the sails snappling in the wind and smell the salt air! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on December 1, 2014
what a neat experience!
By: TexWisGirl on December 1, 2014
An amazing adventure! You describe it so well i can almost feel the wind and waves.
By: mimi on December 1, 2014
I've been there, so thanks for the memory.
By: maryellenbess on December 1, 2014
I actually felt I was there with you!!
By: fishducky on December 1, 2014
I have sailed and it is as you say. Sure beats stinky, noisy engines that drown out the sound of the water slapping the hull. I can hear it now.
By: Akansas Patti on December 1, 2014
I have sailed on a friend's boat in Mexico and know the freedom of the wind and the surf. There's nothing quite like it.
By: Catalyst on December 1, 2014
That's awesome! I've never been on anything larger than a 26' sailboat on a lake. I'd love to try something similar. Thanks for whetting my appetite for a little adventure.
By: Scott Park on December 1, 2014
Great description - you really have a gift for making us feel like we are there with you. Have to admit I had to google "atavistic."
By: Pixel Peeper on December 1, 2014
This reminds me that I should look at my pictures from Hawaii and I might feel warmer.
By: red on December 1, 2014
Well done! I am virtually seasick!
By: Val on December 1, 2014
A beautifully written post! I very much liked the "worn and tired ship" "galloping like a frisky colt"-very nice. The photos are a lovely sense of presence. You bring life to Christopher Cross's great lyric "â¦the canvas can do miraclesâ¦"
By: Tom Cochrun on December 1, 2014
Sailing vessels and catamarans are fun to ride on. Yours had such an awesome history! Those rocks in the last pic are amazing. :O
By: Lexa Cain on December 1, 2014
A very picturesque story, sounds wonderful.
By: John on December 2, 2014
What a great adventure. It sounds like this was a wonderful experience. The closest (not at all) I've come to something like this was the Jolly Roger ship in Barbados back in the 70s. There was (too much) rum involved there too.
By: Hilary on December 2, 2014
Oh how we would love to have an adventure like that!
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on December 2, 2014
What a thrill. I love Captains Courageous. Did Tracy win that Academy Award first, or was it Boys Town? I know he and Tom Hanks are the only two to win Best Actor two years in a row. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 2, 2014
That is a trip I would enjoy for sure.
By: Cranky on December 3, 2014
I fear you have Pirates blood coursing through your veins.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 7, 2014

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