Short Trip to Paradise

Just got back from Mako-ville – short, but awesome trip.

Head out of San Diego at 3:30am and took 8 East toward Calexico. The convoy was supposed to leave Johnny’s Shell station in El Cajon at 4am, but I had no plans to meet them and instead meet up with everybody at the border as I figured they were ahead of me. Turns out that they all passed me going up the hill in Alpine, so I fell in line with them there. Border crossing was easy as usual, and we pointed the column south towards San Felipe.  Took a quick biological break in the desert outside of San Felipe.

Heading South through the desert the conditions were just beautiful with everything green from the rains that fell a few months ago.

Got to Camp at noon on Saturday to pretty decent conditions.

Tempted to go out, but instead cleaned up camp and got settled…

Got my sleeping arrangements squared away, and set up the Solo Skiff for fishing fun. The Boonedox Landing Gear worked awesome with the new heavy duty struts…

Sunday woke up to massive wind and huge waves. Nobody was going to fish that day, so we made good use of the time by completing the solar system for the place and getting solar panels mounted and adjusted. Now the camp has plenty of power for freezers, radio charging and vacuum sealing.

Monday the weather was just a slight breeze with light chop, so I headed out to the island 5 miles distant at sunrise…

Fishing was fun, threw a flatfall at a boiler rock for awhile, until I got distracted with the outboard tiller and let it fall too far into the rocks and lost it. Tied on a Rapala X-Rap and started getting hammered by the Triggers. Because of the single hooks, only the bigger ones managed to get hooked…

Trolled around for awhile in the lee of the island where the water was flat calm and really enjoyed the scenery…

Just south of that picture is a rock outcropping that was teaming with Sierra and started having fun with them, Just kept two to bring home…

Thought about heading over to La Poma island in back of Isla San Luis, but I had been out there nearly 4 hours and had not seen anybody else, and I did not want to head back there out of radio range all alone. Wondering where the heck everybody was, and since it was my turn to cook dinner for the group, I pointed the stiletto bow of the Solo Skiff towards home.

Arrived at the beach to find the reason nobody was out fishing with me.

The quad was completely dug in and high centered.

Helped get Sivak’s skiff launched, and while I was prepping the smoker for ribs, he and Mako Bob were on the back side of that island hammering the roosterfish. They counted more than 50 of them swimming under their skiff and managed to land a few.
Dinner was awesome, dark nights under the stars counting satellites, awesome. I was so bummed to wake up on Tuesday morning to flat glass conditions and I had to go home because of work.

Already figuring out when I can get back to paradise…

Daily Grind Averted

Wake up, make coffee. Jump in the car. Drive to work. Come home and get ready to do it all over again… 5 days a week, 20-some times a month and 240+ days a year.

Sound familiar?

I like many others, live a sedentary life-style during the week in a small cubicle staring at a computer screen. Jumping in the car, skipping town and leaving it all behind is a repetitive sentiment. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to assume Mako-Ville (87 miles north of San Felipe, Baja Mexico) could be a figment of my overworked imagination during a team huddle or a corporate discussion. Except, it isn’t…

It’s sometimes hard to imagine that someone would dedicate most of their time and resources for the benefit of the community in this day, let alone the kayak fishing community. But that’s the type of dedication that makes Mako-Ville not only a possibility but a reality. I learned about Mako-Ville early last year before the fancy name, before the website, back when it was just Bob’s place. Bob’s place is a swath of beachfront located near Gonzaga Bay consisting of the basic amenities; shower, bathroom, kitchen, a garage, no cellphone reception and breathtaking views of the Sea of Cortez. Did I mention the spectacular fishing? As I like to describe simplistically, it is a resort beachfront before the resort. The property is entirely funded by Mako Bob himself and dedicated to the kayak fishing community. Bob opened the property for use to the community of anyone who is a member of BigWatersEdge.Com, a kayak fishing forum.

Being a member of the kayak fishing community and the forum for several years, I have witnessed first hand the helpfulness and kindness of the fellow kayak fisherman. This community is a unique one and depending on what you believe in some do say that there is strong evolutionary human need for a sense of community. All I know is that I can always count on a helping hand loading my kayak at the launch from a member of the community and that’s really something special. It’s not rare in the community that a total stranger finds your lost paddle or tackle box and tries to locate the rightful owner instead of keeping it making a quick buck. But I digress. I think what really makes this community is the shared experiences and interests on the water. Maybe that’s where Bob gets his motivation. Not really sure where this generosity stems from but i do know one thing for sure, it’s that I am grateful for it.

Back at the office…

Barbara down the hallway just got married, Doug can’t wait to tell me about how his son just finished 3rd grade and Monica is a total **** who makes my life a living hell. This isn’t the life i’d imagined i’d lead and these are not topics of conversation that spark any type of interest in my mind. But I have bills to pay and telling them to be quite is not a smart option.

This is why you have Mako-Ville. A get-away from the social media, the commercials, the crybabies and the constant noise of the concrete jungle. It’s a place to see the stars without the interfering city lights, drive on the sand right up to the water, rent a panga and explore the uninhabited islands or just get some peace and quiet. My visits have always been mainly to fish and dive but I never mind just spending the day on sand.

It all sounds fine and dandy but I hate to leave out the best part. The best part about Baja are the people and the land owners are no exception. The people in Baja are hard to put in words but just a few; warm, welcoming, helpful and hard-working. When someone asks you “how are you?” or better “como estas?” they actually want to hear about your wellbeing. There are of course bad apples in any bunch but I have yet to experience them today. I would consider myself an amateur when it comes to travel but what I learn to value most from my trips is the adventure. After all don’t you remember those moments most and tell the stories of what didn’t go according to plan? Won’t you tell the tale of how you bared the front of the storm over the story about the days the drive went smoothly?

I myself had an adventure just getting there.
It started with the following: Last years visit and experiencing epic fishing down in Gozaga Bay, I was itching to return. With my birthday coming up I sold this trip to my friends as a “birthday” trip. How else you get your best friends to take off a week off work to play in Mexico? After, much convincing and A LOT of planning, the trip dates were set months in advance. September 1st through September 9th.

2 4×4 cars, 1 hobie kayak, 1 tandem Kayak and 1 L2Fish Paddleboard, Fishing gear, free diving gear, scuba gear and 4 good friends.

With everything coming together and the date coming closer the news of Tropical Storm Lidia made us question our timing and plans. The storm caused some devastating flooding down in Cabo and was headed up the peninsula. All the forecasts called for heavy rains, flash flooding and high winds all the way up into northern Baja. The storm was to reach Campo La Poma on September 2nd…. the day we planned to get there. The question laid heavily on our minds in the days leading up to our trip. “Do we leave a few days late and cut our trip short or do we stick to the plan and drive directly into the storm and ride it out?”

As you may have already guessed, we unanimously decided to leave as scheduled. 3 AM we meet just north of Los Angeles. The drive down showed signs of unstable weather and stormy patterns. There were high wind gusts and hot humid weather at night. Nothing says storm’s comin’ like 80 degree warm gusts at 4 in the morning. This added to the anxiety of the storm. We make our mandatory breakfast and fuel stop in Calexico at about 7AM. Shortly after, crossing smoothly into Mexico at 8 AM. We were directed to the Tourist Visa office by the border patrol instantly and they even helped us find a parking spot. (way smoother and more clear than the last time we crossed). We picked up our FMM tourist visa which is now 500 Pesos, approximately 30$ a person.

Feeling the accomplishment of being halfway there we departed to the next stop, San Felipe. On our way just out of Mexicali, I was waved off the road by a parked Policia. I get pulled over greeted and asked for my destination and reason for my visit. The officer asks for my driver’s license and registration. I am pretty sure I am about to get a ticket as I had been driving 74 KM in a 60 KM Zone. (With oversized tires my speedometer does not read accurately so I was unsure of my actual speed). The Policia officer hands me back my registration and driver’s license and sends me on my way. No hassle. No Ticket. No Headache.

After the stop, this leg of our drive produced some spectacular views of the desert and displayed the first signs of the Tropical Storm Lidia. The desert was barren, the wind gusts were beginning to strengthen and before we knew it we were driving through a sandstorm. Visibility was a mere 200 feet which worsened to 50 and then cleared again to about 300. The landscape was surreal, with nothing but a two lane road expansive desert landscape straight out of an old western movie.

The rain began just outside of San Felipe and cleared up very shortly before we pulled into town. The wind was strong and the Sea of Cortez did not look inviting. The sea was producing 3-4 ft waves as far a 300 yards offshore. We stopped at the grocery store to stock up on beer and groceries for the week. Then we drove into San Felipe so my friends could pick up their fishing licenses. This turned out to be a long ordeal as the Tourism office in San Felipe no longer sell fishing licenses. They sent my friends to another guy who sells them across the town. The guy who is supposed to sell them was apparently not working on Saturdays and they returned to the Tourism office in San Felipe. They were directed to a website and they allowed my friends to use their computer to purchase them online. IF YOU EVER GO TO MEXICO, PLEASE REMEMBER TO CALL YOUR BANK AND LET THEM KNOW YOU WILL BE TRAVELING. My friends did not follow this advise although I let them know it would be a good idea. So after the transaction was denied they also had to borrow the tourism office’s phone to call their bank. After 2 hours and fishing licenses in hand, we were fueled up and ready to continue on our last leg of the drive.

Leaving San Felipe, it is always interesting to see the amount of failed developments on the roadside. It seems that many have attempted to develop communities, hotels and stores in Mexico but not all have succeeded.

The rain just outside of San Felipe was relentless. The downpour had began and this slowed our drive to a more modest speed. Windshield wipers could barely keep up with the speed of the rain. It seemed that the drainage of water had the same problem. There were deep puddles in the road, most the vados had small creeks running through them. Rocks half the size of cars has fallen on the roads reducing traffic to a single lane for both directions. There were waterfalls pouring down the rocks as we drove through the mountain passes. The valleys once dirt and barren were teaming with water. Streams, rivers, creeks and some places nearly lakes. I now understand how flash floods can really catch you off-guard. What was most surprising to me was that regardless of the rain, there was a crew of 4 clearing the road of rocks and from what we heard that they had cleared everything in the road by the next morning.

Driving through the mountains looking down at the Sea of Cortez the waves have grown exponentially. We were watching 6-8 breakers rolling into every cove, bay and beach. The waves were breaking over every shallow reef, pounding every beach and the water was an eerie brownish green. We were wondering if this would stay through the whole trip.

We pulled up to the “Campo La Poma” sign around 5 PM. Drove down the muddy road down to the beach. The islands were not visible, the rain made visibility a mere 200ft from the shoreline. Waves were breaking on the beach 5-6 ft tall as far as you could see. We stopped at the restaurant to pick up the keys from Bob’s place and hid out in the Garage from the storm.

The rain was relentless and as night fell we wondered how long we would be confined to 4 walls…

he next morning the weather appeared to have a break and the ocean was calm. We figured we had an hour or so window to get out and fish. Waves were down to 1 ft. Wind was a steady 1 mph and the rain had stopped at night.

We decided to give the water a quick try. The weather kept improving, and the hour window turned into a whole day of glassy calm conditions. We got caught off-guard and got a little sunburnt. We fished out front of bobs place and landed a few spotted bay bass, then paddled over to Punta Bufeo and picked off at the triggerfish and caught some Cabrilla for dinner.

The following days were absolutely spectacular. The wind never rose above 5mph for the next 4 days until Friday where we had about 3 hours of 10-20 mph in the afternoon with glassy conditions in the morning and the evening. The mornings would always consist of fishing and the afternoons would consist of cooking or eating at the restaurant with the land owner Luis.

Getting off the water on Sunday, we had a fire drill of grabbing our rods and running towards jumping mullet with a 30 lb roosterfish comb following them in 2 ft of water.

On Monday we fished and dove Punta Bufeo. We did both an early morning session followed by a sunset session. My buddy lost a hook to a 10 lb Cabrilla. I landed my first hogfish followed by a 2nd hogfish. A friend of mine who is a newbie fisherman had the best luck of us all on this day. He landed a 17 inch golden grouper. The fish was photographed and returned promptly to the water. It took some explaining to him on how special this fish actually was. We ended the day with some Cabrilla and a hogfish for dinner. The days total was around 30-40 fish with the majority of them being pesky trigger fish. I also caught my first Jack Crevalle, although very small.

The days after that kind of all blend in together but I will do my best to recap chronologically.

On Tuesday, we fished Alfonsinas and Punta Willard. My friends stayed inside the bay and I went for a lap around the island to the inside of the bay. My friend on his SUP landed a 2 lb Cabrilla and I landed one the same size on a reef I marked on my paddle out. The paddle around the island produced small cabrilla. I did however land a few decent 2 lb cabrilla on the surface iron which was very fun around the other side of the island on the inside of the bay. I met a couple of BWE members on my paddle back through the bay Steve (DoD) and I forget his friends name. They had also seen roosterfish in the area. I made my way back and had lunch and some beers at Alfonsinas. My friends excavated some large whale bones on the shore and were in awe of the skeletal structure of the huge mammals.

Wednesday we intended to rent a Panga from Alfonsinas however we were unfortunate to find out that it had to be arranged in advance and we returned back to camp. We took the kayaks back to Punta Bufeo and fished and dove the coves. We found the cove just past the point had a large number of whale bones which we later found out from Luis that him and his family had to move dead whales from their land one year and they moved 27 whale carcasses to that cove. The storm must have uncovered much of what was buried by the sand over time.

We dove the cove but the visibility was not great.

On Thursday we had arranged Luis’s brother Rodrigo to drive down from San Felipe and take us out fishing on a Panga. IF YOU DO ONE THING ON THIS TRIP, ARRANGE SOME FISHING TIME WITH RODRIGO. JUST WOW! Rodrigo is a wealth of fishing knowledge and really knows what he is doing in those waters. The truck drove right past our tents and we loaded up into the panga with our fishing and freediving gear. We launched the panga right in front of camp and were on our way to the islands.

We fished many reefs and all seemed barren of life. Unfortunately, we weren’t having much luck and asked Rodrigo to take us to a diving spot near the island. During our move we saw a spectacular sight of 150 lb marlin jumping clean out of the water! This was just what we needed on a hot day. The water was 88 degrees. The visibility was spotty from 5 ft to a whopping 25 ft in spots. This was my favorite part of the trip. We saw triggerfish, hogfish, parrotfish, angelfish, cabrilla, damselfish, and many more. The island was full of life. We even got to shoot a nice 5 lb cabrilla.

Getting out of the water and moving farther we spotted a large area of baitfish. The baitfish were jumping out of the water but nothing was chasing them. We fished a football field long baitschool but the bite was very slow…. until it wasn’t. A friend of mine landed a nice 8 lb Pargo, and that’s when the sierra rolled in. We kept working the bait school and started hooking a few sierra. I got bit clean off on 50 lb fluorocarbon leader. Those sierra teeth are no joke. I couldn’t believe it. We landed a few sierra and the bite slowed. We moved a little shallower as it seemed the bait moved and picked through small cabrilla and triggerfish. That’s when Rodrigo hooked and handed off a 30 lb Roosterfish. The Rooster headed right for the prop but with a quick hand off and move of the panga we were able to land the rooster and take some quick photos. The fish was put back in the water and swam off on its own.

We fished a while longer and headed back to shore. Rodrigo fillet our catch of cabrilla, pargo and sierra right on the shore and we took out Sierra to the restaurant for dinner.

Friday we were exhausted from going non-stop since we got there and took our time in the morning. We got our scuba gear ready and dove Punta Bufeo from out kayaks. The diving was really amazing. We saw a few big Hogfish and Pargo hiding out in the rocks along with a lot of other life. It was so easy to dive without a wetsuit and it made for long and comfortable dive. I dove my longest dive at 84 minutes that’s almost an hour and half exploring boulders and the micro life. Followed by another dive at about an hour.

Friday night was for packing and Saturday morning was for leaving.

Friday night we slept outside and enjoyed the view of a lightning storm over a glassy Sea of Cortez with nearly a full moon to illuminate the landscape and a silhouette of the island. This was the last thing we saw as we pulled away at 3 am from the camp and said goodbye to paradise.

Denis Ruso

27-31 August 2017 Mako-ville

This was a short, quick trip to get ready for the upcoming season.  I was the only one in camp, so got to fish the beach for a few hours.  The usual suspects were around.  Bass, triggers, a needle fish about 4 feet long and one small corvina.  Seemed hard to cast the fly rod after not casting for a while.  And some muscle loss from the nursing home did not help, still it was enjoyable.

Main reason for trip was a stop at Tacos Poblano, really missed their tacos the last two months, AND to hopefully get the new solar system up and working.  My good friend and mentor Dave Sivak, designed and built the system in the states.  I took it down and reinstalled it in camp.  Dave had mounted the Controller, Inverter, and cut off switches with breakers to a plywood board, so all I had to do was mount the board to the wall.  Build a battery rack and attach the battery wires, then install the solar panels on the roof and the hard part was done, or so I thought.

Making the mc4 cables to connect the solar panels to the Controller proved to be a task.  Even with all the correct tools it was fun,  One end of the wire cable had to be stripped back about an inch, the other end only needed to be stripped a half-inch.  They go together easily enough BUT do not always line up right, after 11 tries I got the connectors on right and tight.  Yeh 2 cables with a total on 4  connections took 11 tries and over an hour.  Would have been easier had I done a couple of samples first.

Not sure I did it right, hoping Dave will check it out in a couple of weeks, because it will be running a real refrigerator, solar lighting and a recharging station for the kayakers, would be nice if the small freezer runs on it too.  Time will tell.