Alex and I wave goodbye to Barra today as we head to Ixtapa/Z-Town, about 200 miles south where we will meet up with Ted and some other VIP guests.
The above said, Windy indicates that there is some weather spinning up about another 300 miles south of there in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, a region just north of the Mexican border with Guatemala notorious for Its fierce winds/seas.
An Interview with The Captain
On May of 2019 I had the pleasure of cruising alone with Alex as we transited from Barra de Navidad toward Ixtapa/Z-Town.
My son Alex serves as Embajador’s captain just as he did on our previous boat, Coastal Estate, an Offshore 58 that we cruised extensively. He is also an avid fisherman and photographer (click here to see some of the great photos that Alex has taken over the years that we have been cruising Mexico).
We talked on a beautiful spring day as Embajador steadily moved southward with a following sea rolling slowly underneath her. Alex was in his typical position at the wheel in the pilothouse, outfitted in his usual tee-shirt and a pair of board shorts, a set of stabilized binoculars at the ready around his neck.
C: Alex, you spent the last three years in charge of Coastal Estate prior to taking the helm on Embajador. CE was considerably smaller with a 58’ waterline compared to Embajador at 80’. What differences stand out to you between the two yachts and how has your job changed? Is the new boat considerably more complicated to operate and maintain?
A: I don’t think that Embajador is really much more complicated than Coastal Estate as most of the systems are of similar design and many are made by the same manufacturers. However, most everything is 1.5-2x as large and there are twice as many of them, so the amount of time required to maintain the boat has gone up considerably. As far as piloting the boat, I don’t think it’s much more difficult, however you have to be aware that any mistakes made are going to cause a lot more damage.
C: What do you see as the most critical aspect of your job?
A: Keeping people aboard safe.
C: Lots of people have boats that they keep up in the states where they can readily access professional technicians and boat yards. What is different about maintaining a yacht while on the move in remote locations?
A: First of all, everything gets a lot more use. You have to keep the boat extra well maintained, for example when cruising or spending extensive time at anchor we might have to change the oil in the generators as often as every 10 days. We need to be mindful of potential issues, hopefully before they arise. It’s also extremely important to carry the spare parts that might be needed for all critical systems. That’s a lot of parts and they are scattered all over the boat, so it is important to maintain a database of where everything is.
C: What systems aboard the boat are the most troublesome and how do you deal with them?
A: Anything that uses salt water usually requires the most work. Cooling for engines, generators, and hydraulic systems need to be cleaned and serviced at regular intervals depending on use and conditions. Flushing with an acidic solution between intervals can also help greatly.
C: We have cruised extensively up and down Baja, the Sea of Cortez and Costa Alegre over the last few years and before that spent many weeks each year traveling with our trailer boat in the Sea of Cortez. We also spent some time in the Bahamas on Dog Days, our 28’ center console while based in Florida. What experiences stand out as the most memorable for you?
A: One of my favorite places we’ve visited is Magdalena Bay. The variety and consistency of the fishing there is incredible. The striped marlin fishing there has to be the best in the world during the fall and you can have a fun day any time of year of fishing in the mangroves for bass, grouper, corvina, and snook. The landscape is beautiful and the areas to anchor and explore are fantastic with endless miles of mangrove tidal rivers to explore. We often anchor well up into the river, so the nights and evenings are always very peaceful.
C: If you had to name a favorite place that you have visited thus far, what would it be and why?
A: I think Puerto Escondido near Loreto in BCS, Mexico has been my favorite place so far. There are so many islands and anchorages to explore close by, hardly anyone fishing there (I think maybe I saw a total of about 10 sportfishing boats while fishing there over my entire summer there last year). The swimming, snorkeling and diving there is great too. During the summer the water is 85-90 degrees with outstanding visibility of up to 150 ft.
C: You are effectively an expat, living out of the USA pretty much full time. Do you miss being back in the states?
A: The only thing I miss about being in the US is how easy and quick it is to get things up there. However, with a little time and patience you can obtain most everything you need down here as well, albeit at a price.
C: We have a 3-year plan for Embajador to cruise the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, Central America, transit the Panama Canal and then head throughout the Caribbean. What places do you look most forward to visiting?
A: I’m looking forward to Costa Rica and Panama quite a lot. From what I’ve seen and heard the fishing is incredible both inshore and offshore, plus there are lots of neat islands and coves at which to anchor.
C: Keeping an eye on the weather has to be critical, in fact there is a potential hurricane brewing in the T-Peck region right now. What methods do you use to try to stay clear of trouble spots?
A: We use the Windy app a lot down here.
C: Have you ever experienced any really bad seas or conditions?
A: A few times we’ve had some winds up to 40mph on the west coast of Baja. Surfing down them on Coastal Estate required careful piloting and when bashing north it was a rough slow ride, but I haven’t experienced anything too terrible – yet.
C: What kind of plans do you have in-case of a hurricane?
A: The best option is avoidance altogether. I keep the boat stocked with fuel, water, spare parts and any maintenance items needed at all times so that we can be on the run with short notice. As the boat can cruise at the same or faster rate than most hurricanes, we should be able to outrun them. If outrunning is not an option, knowing the best marinas/hurricane holes in the area is important as well as having extra sets of heavy duty mooring lines and chafe gear + knowing how to use them properly.
C: Anyone who knows you well knows that you are an avid fisherman (to say the least). What got you into fishing and how did you become such an expert?
A: Offshore fishing with the family in Mexico and San Diego as I was growing up first got me interested. Shortly thereafter I started fishing on my own off the beach and on my kayak. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about different types of fishing and chatting on internet forums. The way you really learn is on the water trying everything you can.
C: I think I remember you catching a marlin on our 13′ dinghy off of La Jolla one summer.
A: Yep, I spent many days working to make that happen. Pretty exciting!
C: What kind of fishing do you like best?
A: I’m a big fan of all types of fishing from fly fishing for small trout in creeks to trolling offshore for big pelagics. My favorite though would have to be throwing irons at boiling fish. I enjoy the hunt much more than the reeling and this type of fishing requires an educated guess at where I think the fish might be, and then visually searching for any signal that they are around. Once locating them there’s nothing more exciting in fishing than pulling up to a spot of diving birds with breaking tuna or jacks and getting your lure into the bite zone.
C: At this point Alex began turning the boat to the west and casually instructed me to head downstairs to put out a cedar plug.
To be continued…
A Big Tuna. So when Alex says to go down and put out a cedar plug jig, I go down and put out a cedar plug.
If you have been with us for long, you already know what happens next. Wham!! The rod on the short corner doubled over and the reel began to scream. The rod was bent over with such force that I could hardly get it out of the holder.
For a minute or two all I could do was hold on as what ever monster on the other end took more and more line. Thank goodness the thing choose the jig on this rod as it happened to be rigged with 80 pound test and a big Tiagra two speed reel.
When the fish finally finished its initial run I tried to start reeling, but I could hardly move the handle; switching into low gear I began to get some line back, but no sooner than I did the thing took another run.
20 minutes later I had it within 30 feet of the boat, but the thing decided it wasn’t coming any further! My arms were turning to rubber as I rested the the rod on the rail for leverage and pumped it with my legs to get it to move up and down, but every time I got a couple of feet of line in, the fish would take it right back.
Ok, to cut a long story short, the fight lasted for about an hour, but I finally got the large tuna to leader with some help from Alex’s boat maneuvering, and he got a gaff in it, pulling it through the tuna door flapping wildly on the deck with such force I thought it might dislodge some of the teak.
When things finally settled down I tried to lift it on its nose for a photo but couldn’t get the thing more than ½ way up and had to settle for an anemic picture with me sitting on a step holding up the tail.
Now Alex likes nothing more than to underestimate the weight of a fish. I lean the other way (the tee shirts we had made for my 28 ft center console read, “No fish too small, no story too big”), but we finally agreed on 150 pounds. I can say this for sure, this was the strongest fish that I’ve ever had on a hook.
Alex put us on another one. All in a day’s work…
An Interview With The Captain Continued
C: Well, that was exciting! Back to the interview –
No doubt you have some fish on your bucket list that you would yet like to catch. What are they?
A: I’ve always wanted to catch a really big marlin. I’d like to catch a “grander” someday (over 1000 lbs).
C: Tell us about how you got into photography and what you like about it.
A: Being on the water often in the past 5-6 years I seen a lot of cool things while fishing and wanted to be able to share and look back on them. Capturing a good shot is often just as exciting as catching a good fish.
C: Assuming we get out of Embajador’s journey alive ☺, what are your plans for the future?
A: I’d like to do some tournament fishing and possibly do some cruising of my own on a small sailboat.
Arrival In Zihuatanejo
After a great seared tuna dinner and an uneventful warm night (I spent much of my time on watch sitting outside on “La Playa Deck” in front of the pilot-house) we’re a few miles off of Zihuatanejo pulling past thatched roofed houses perched on the hill at the entrance to the harbor, dropped the hook and settled in for a quick nap before going into town for some exploration.
A New Chapter. This passage marks a new chapter for Alex and I as neither of us have cruised south of Barra on our own to date, on ether Coastal Estate or Embajador.
Stay with us as the Embajador Adventure continues while we journey along Mexico’s Pacific Southwest, Coast, through Central America and on to the Caribbean.
While you are at it, check out Black River Caviar!
Nice interview with Captain Alex!!
Had to check this post out after seeing you this morning. Loved the interview, and the Tuna!