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James Pickell, CEO & President
Self-confessed serial entrepreneur. Addicted to challenges. Bores easily. Baja denizen and afficionado.
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Fish Magic on the East Cape of Baja

By Dawn Pier

Unlike the gear-laden visitors who come here to the East Cape from all over the world to fish from expensive cruisers, most local Mexicans use hand lines to fish. It’s just fishing line, a weight and a hook, with or without bait. In my caretaker Felipe’s case, he keeps the line organized and under control by wrapping it around a 4”x3” piece of plywood. The weight is often makeshift, a stainless steel nut or other piece of heavy metal. Casting is a technique that takes some skill. He swings the line in a circle over his head as if it were a lariat and then throws it into the surf. The casting is critically timed with the surf action, so that the out-flowing water takes the line into deeper water rather than pushing it back to shore.

Catch of the day

Yesterday Felipe caught several fish that he calls pescado blanco (white fish). They are white mullet or what the locals call “lisa.” I asked him if there were any Huachinango (red snapper) that I might share with my father who is visiting. He looked at me confidently and said, “I saw some in the waves today. I will catch one for you tomorrow.”  I was taken back by his confident proclamation and didn’t put much faith in it.

The next morning there was a knock at the door. It was Felipe holding out a Huachinango, the perfect size for three people to share. And we just happened to be going to a friend’s for dinner that night.

If you know anything about fishing – in Baja or anywhere – you know that this was a virtual miracle. My friend that night said it speaks to my ability to dictate my desires to the Universe, but I think it says more about Felipe’s ability as a fisherman. The local ranchers have often commented to me, “Felipe is a good fisherman. He catches fish even when others come home empty-handed.”

I never put much stock in what they said and figured it had more to do with how often he fished than the results. I guessed they were making assumptions about his abilities. How could they know how good a fisher he was? Felipe is not one given to boasting. What I didn’t realize was that their knowledge came firsthand.

Yesterday, Felipe came to the house and told me he was going to walk the three miles to his friend Trino’s ranch. When I asked “What for?” he said he was taking the extra fish he caught that day to the rancher and his family. When I offered to drive him, in characteristic humility he suggested I deliver the fish myself.

Lunch is served

At the ranch, when I asked her, Trino’s wife Luisa confirmed that Felipe often gives them his catch. I asked around and discovered that Felipe gives away a great deal of the fish he catches. To families who live in ramshackle houses with dirt floors, no electricity, no plumbing and often not much in the way of food—families who define “dirt poor.”

They are right. He does have a gift.

It has been my experience that generosity runs deep in Mexico despite its status as a country where so many people have so very little. Do you have a first-hand Baja experience illustrating people’s generosity? I’d love to hear your story. Post them in the comments section below.

Read Dawn’s personal blog at Dawn Revealed.

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Costa’s on the Coast

By Dawn Pier, East Cape Amiga

There are at least ten Costa’s Hummingbirds feeding at the two feeders hanging from the ramada on the patio.  I’m not sure exactly how many there are because they move so fast they’re hard to count. They flit back and forth across my plane of vision, tiny forces enveloped in feathers, wings beating at upwards of 90 beats per second, too fast for the human eye to perceive their individual movement. Instead I see a blur of wings that suggests where they were and will be, but like an atom, it’s just an approximation, impossible to see the wing in real time.

Costa Hummingbird

They chatter and scold one another, fight and dive bomb like World War II flying aces, going up, up, up and then banking and falling back towards Earth in a tiny mass of blurred feathers. Their size belies their identity and sometimes I imagine I’m seeing a large beetle or tarantula wasp and then am shocked by the fact that I could mistake a bird for an insect.

Their metallic chit-chit call warms off interlopers looking for the same sweet sustenance, but their softer gentler whirring call suggests something more soothing. The bird books don’t distinguish between the two calls, but when they make the whirring song from atop a perch I cannot imagine it’s anything but an attempt to attract a lover.

The sun catches briefly the iridescent green of their feathers, the brilliant tyrian purple and indigo of the male’s gorget, but it is the briefest of glimpses because he’s off again, charging after a competitor, or a female in an attempt to impress her with his speed. The gorget resembles long sideburns giving the males the appearance of tiny winged Elvis impersonators.

A pair will build a tiny nest together, less than a couple of inches in diameter and wrapped around the netting of the palapa. A few short days later two tiny white eggs appear.  The wait to see if they will hatch is short, only 15 to 18 days. The hatchlings appear one day suddenly, hideous black leathery things with just a dusting of straggly downy feathers. They are smaller than a quarter with surprisingly short, yellow-edged beaks. Their eyes are closed bulges on bobbing heads supported by weak necks. They look frail and unbelievably helpless.

 Mother and father share the responsibility of delivering sweet nectar to the nest and day by day the chicks expand and grow, their beaks begin to elongate. Sooner than I would have thought possible based on their appearance only a couple of weeks earlier, pin feathers appear, fill in and fledging is imminent.

One day the nest sits empty. I feel an empty space open in my gut and I realize I’d felt some kinship to these little creatures. I miss them and wonder if they fledged or met some other less glorious fate – as a late night snack for a Coachwhip Snake perhaps?


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