Monday, January 23, 2017


This year our extended family was lucky enough to spend the start of the new year on the beach in Mexico.  Our daughter Elizabeth had the winning ticket in a lottery organized by the Commission for self government in Isla Vista.  The grand prize was a one-week stay in a drug lord quality beach house at a place called Punta Del Bozo on the northern bight of Banderas Bay in the Nayarit province west of Puerto Vallarta.  One of the coolest parts of this trip was the incredible bus we embarked on in Mexicali. It  slept all 14 of us, provided a deluxe kitchen and gave us a large midsection game room where we could watch movies and play charades as we roared toward our destination.

Our hidden host was La Hermindad del Bozo (the Brotherhood of Bozos)– a somewhat dark organization which allegedly controls the economy in Nayarit and western Jalisco.  They derive their name from a now obscure comedy troupe of cunning linguists known as the Firesign Theater.  Their popularity lingered for a time in the Proctor and Ward radio hour on the airwaves of the Santa Barbara/Isla Vista region of California.  The founders of “Los Bozos” traveled by bus in the 1970s to this coastal region of Mexico, where they set up rustic surf camps in an area that has now been transformed by the drug trade and tourism.
We stayed at the famous Villa Ananda, a seaside mansion and yoga center protected from the prying eyes of the world by the Los Bozos organization, as they seek to go “legitimate” with a business model based on Yoga, the mass consumption of food and liquor, and a dedication to  family –friendly sport fishing. 

 There were days of surfing, massage, and spiritual awakening at the feet of the resident Yogi, but this report concentrates on the day of fishing we experienced with Elme and his crew at "Y-Knot" charters, which operates out of Bucerias and the Cooperativo at Anclote. There was a full time staff of four at Villa Ananda who saw to our every need, as well as making us aware of needs we did not realize we had until new cocktails and snacks were forced on us.

Our group of intrepid anglers included your narrator, daughters Sarah and Lizzy, Connor Devaney, Isaac Schmitt, Tommy Schmitt, David Schmitt and Cousin Ryan Babbush.  A group of this size required that we be split into two parties, so Isaac, Sarah, Connor and Ryan teamed up in a 30 foot catamaran ably commanded by local pescadero Lora and his brother Juan, while Lizzy, and our two 11 year olds accompanied and translated for me on a 31 foot whaler crewed by Elme, skipper Arturo and deckhand Victor.  These boats are fast, seaworthy and festooned with modern Shimano fishing gear and fresh spectra line.  They have modern electronics and safety gear -  a far cry from the 40 horse pangas we used to charter off the beach in the bad old days.  They are priced accordingly.
We arrived at the Cooperativo and embarked into the gray light and slightly stormy seas.  Our whaler headed more to the west to look for tuna and dorado, while the cat headed for La Corbetena, a rocky outcropping which rises from the sea about 18 miles west of Punta De Mita.
Elme, who is an extremely charming and knowledgeable host, told us a fantastically romantic story on the way out.  When he was fourteen, a family of surfing hippies from Isla Vista was camping along the shores of the bay for four months, having traveled there by bus.  He fell in love with the family’s 14 year old daughter named Heidi, who he announced he intended to marry.  Her dad chuckled sympathetically at this notion and the family returned to the United States and out of his life.  Five years later, they returned with a picture they had taken of Elme.  They searched until they found him and he was reunited with his first crush.  The two then embarked on a 22 year long distance relationship which ultimately culminated in marriage and two young children, after Heidi obtained her PHD and became an expert in poison research in the USA.  The parents of Elme’s wife were connected with the original 1970’s Bozos of Isla Vista, whose influence  inexplicably expanded in the region to the point that the local citizenry expressed allegiance to Los Bozos.  Their reach  grew to include the protection of virtually all local businesses, as well as the acquisition of the famous beachside ashram where we were privileged to stay.
The ride out was in rough seas and we were not able to take full advantage of the swiftness of our boat. 

We trolled an area west of Corbetena for tuna and dorado, which is the Mexican name for what the Hawaiians call mahi-mahi, which is what everyone in Punta Del Bozo calls dorado, for reasons which remain unclear to me.  
 We did not encounter any of the giant yellowfin tuna for which this region is famous, but we did briefly hook  and lose a big marlin after it screamed off  a few hundred yards of line and signaled the end of the contest with a couple of big headshakes that separated him from our fleeting grip.
We stayed in touch with our sister ship by radio and heard that they were successfully drifting for Jack Crevalle and Snapper. 

 We eventually motored over to the rock pile that makes up Corbetena, which is topped by a cool little lighthouse. Tommy expressed grim determination while Lizzy went dormiendo.

We fished with live cabalito as both boats drifted the pinnacles around the visible part of the rock.  Sea Lions came out to grab Pargo (red snapper), while dolphins breezed through and drove up bait balls for diving terns and frigate birds.
We observed our companions on the other boat with bent rods and soon we were hooked up.  The action was not red hot, but was a steady pick during which everyone caught a variety of fish , including sierra; dogtooth snapper, African pompano ( I do not know why they are African) and jack crevalle, which pull very hard and which  we generally released. Sarah hoisted one of her Jacks as Isaac secured the implement of its temporary removal from the sea

Connor caught a beautiful green barred dogtooth snapper, which we voted the tastiest fish of the trip

Ryan yanked in a toothy sierra, which made for delicious ceviche back at the ashram.

Tommy was the first on our boat to hook up a jack, which soon railed him to the point where Lizzy took over

 and jacked it over the rail with help from Victor. 

 David, with encouragement from Elme, displayed excellent form while pulling on fish as we moved to various spots. 

Our sister ship can be seen in the background of this shot of David with soon-to-be-released jack

 Some of the victims of our piscatorial efforts were set free, while others were more cruelly thrown on the ice, as we took breaks to consume the wonderful tortas and peculiarly addictive cheese infused Mexican Ruffles to which we were introduced by our incredibly helpful and entertaining crew.

Arturo and Tommy with African pompano.

      We started working our way down swell, stopping at a few spots to ply our trade.  We saw many breaching humpback whales, which Elme instructed us to refrain from watching, so that he would not have to charge us an additional whale watching fee.
     Elme then spotted a series of painted liter bottles bobbing in a line downwind from a buoyed flag.  It was an illegal long–line placed by an interloping outlaw group known as Los Changos del Mar – the Sea Monkeys.  They are regarded as an inferior rival by the Los Bozos organization and Elme openly expressed his contempt for them as we slowly motored up to one of the bottles that bobbed furiously. 
    Elme explained that these long lines indiscriminately hook and kill a variety of fish, as well as turtles, one of which was causing the gyration of the bottle that signaled its plight.  Elme and his crew carefully brought in the lines and released the turtle.  

We then liberated the game fish pulling on other bottles down the main line. 

 We watched the turtle furiously swim away and I took a really crappy picture of this event. We were engaged in a bout of self congratulation as we watched it escape.  Because of this lengthy distraction, we failed to observe a sinister looking vessel bearing down on us from the east.  Before we had a chance to hit the throttles, I heard gunfire from an AK 47 and turned to see a crew of four  ape-like guys dressed like pirates swooping in on us on a twin engine black hulled panga.  
     They were screaming “Alto!” and a bunch of other Mexican words I did not understand. Elme told us to be cool and not make any sudden moves.  All of my kids speak fluent Spanish and kept me informed with whispered translation.  The crew of this boat were the owners of the illicit long line and they were not too happy about the liberation they had caught us performing.  They seemed to want to kidnap the kids and Elme was warning them that we were fishing under the protective flag of  Los Bozos, who would not look kindly on such a breach of local order.  The kids explained to me that these guys were members of "Los Changos Del Mar" (literally - Sea Monkeys, or more formally, The Monkeys of the Sea), the unchivalrous, upstart rivals of Los Bozos.  They appeared to be intent on making an example of us.
     The guy who seemed to be in charge of the black boat spit into the water over the barrel of his gun, which he pointed in a very menacing way at each of us in turn.  We were still at least 15 miles out and totally at their mercy.  Suddenly a thunderous roar of heavy weaponry erupted as Elme and Arturo dove toward us and pulled us down to the deck.  The noise was deafening and I was consumed with the flash of certainty that we would be sunk and never heard from again.  A red hot shell landed on the back of my hoody and several more clinked into our boat.  I grabbed at the back of my burning neck and came away with a smoking 50 caliber casing.  
     Those Changos did not have a deuce, I thought.  I poked my head up and saw the black panga shattering into splinters of high velocity impact.   What looked like hunks of crudely butchered meat and bone began splashing into the water around us.  The panga folded up and was rapidly dragged down, stern first, by the two 250 horse outboards on its transom.
     We all stood up.  Twenty yards to our west was the wave washed gun deck of a miniature submarine that had surfaced behind us so as to be screened from the black panga.  A red haired gunner with big shoes stood behind a smoking fifty caliber machine gun.  He said nothing, but rapidly unlimbered the gun from its mount and fed it back through a hatch next to the gun mount.  He descended into the hatchway, pausing only to give us a winking glance.  The skipper of this sub, which was less than sixty feet long, grinned down at us from the conning tower and yelled down to us -
 “You Okay Gringos?”

 He looked at our skipper and said “Ola Elme, Como Estas?”  Elme yelled back, “Gracias, Hermano!” The skipper of the sub then expressed his contempt for Los Changos and exchanged a few pleasantries with Elme, who he obviously knew quite well.  I learned during my stay that everybody knows and loves Elme. I noticed that the conning tower was painted with a likeness of Bozo the Clown.  

The skipper yelled down the conning tower hatch to his unseen crew, “Bozamanos Muchachos!” and waved to us as he slipped down into the tower and pulled the hatch closed behind him.  The boat rapidly slipped beneath the chop toward Puerto Vallarta.   We saw its periscope pop up and cut a wake for a short time before that trail disappeared as well. 

Elme cracked a couple of beers for us and broke out the chips.  “Wasn’t that just the darndest thing?” he said to us in perfect English.  “The Bozos know that you are with us and staying at the Ashram at Punta Bozo, so you are under their protection – Our protection.  In a word, your status is that of an original Bozo, as in “Bozo tambien” or, more formally, “Bozotros”.  My bilingual kids explained to me this term of inclusion was a conjugation taken from the root verb “Bozar”, which means “to be a Bozo”. 
      Well, “Yo quiero Bozar” is how I would describe my attitude about this exciting day on the water.
     We motored back toward shore and stopped to catch a couple more pompano and dogtooth snapper.  We saw many whales, some of which repeatedly engaged in full body breaches and crashed back into the sea below chattering swarms of seabirds.  
     Our companions were already back in the harbor when we returned to the port.  Elme’s crew expertly cleaned our catch and placed it on ice.  It was enough to feed us and the staff at the Ashram for the rest of the week.
     Our staff prepared a ceviche and sashimi feast for us on each of the remaining days during cocktail hour, which comprises the majority of each day. 

      This was the first family vacation we have taken that involved a high degree of scheduled alcohol consumption with our grown children, their cousins and their friends.  This new phase in family festivities seems to be something to which we are all comfortably adapting without much difficulty.
     The kids caught waves that evening and the sunset was especially beautiful after our maritime adventure.

 We had our own family point break and the kids  honed their skills as they took turns snaking each other.

There is not enough space in this already too long report to describe the other activities and spiritual experiences with the Yogi, so I am not going to even try. I would have to say that this trip, including the two day charades-infused bus ride back to Mexicali, was the most relaxing and pampered vacation I have ever had.  

     We took our own Isla Vista Express bus from Mexicali to Orange county, but by then we were on our home turf.

     If you get down to this part of Mexico and want a quality  angling experience for everyone from  professional tournament fishermen to a family of kooks like ours, I can give my whole hearted recommendation to contacting Elme and Y-Knot Charters.  They have a fleet of boats and great crews.  Elme can put together any kind of fishing package you can think of, as well as whale watching, diving, and wave runner rentals.

I know that such opportunities for this kind of wholesome family fun and dealing death to monkey criminals are rare enough to savor.  I, for one, cannot wait to try and repeat much of what we have encountered on this journey of spiritual discovery.  It seems that as we grow, it becomes ever more obvious  that we are all Bozos on this bus..... and 

These are the Days.