By Gene Kira, July 29, 2002, as published in Western Outdoor News:
Here's the conclusion to the true version of the Hot Boat Story legend of East Cape, as told by Baja historian Jimmy Smith of Los Barriles, who is the last living participant in the events described.
This story, begun in last week's column, happened about 1964 when a sailor's badly decomposed body was discovered inside the abandoned sailboat, Ila, which ran aground near East Cape's present-day resort of Rancho Leonero.
Jimmy Smith's first-person account picks up the story after a wind set the boat to drifting again--and it was again discovered--this time near East Cape's historic Rancho Buena Vista fishing resort, where it was claimed by hotel owner, Col. Gene Walters.
As Jimmy tells it:
"The coronel claimed salvage rights. Somehow, Ted Bonney, Gil Powell and Doc Ross conned me into cleaning out the bits and pieces from the passageway and ripping up the carpet, which were all consigned to Davey Jones' Locker. Doc Ross fixed the leak in the exhaust system and it was agreed that the boat should be moved to La Paz since the chubasco season was coming. Through some process that I still don't understand, Don Felipe Ruiz and I were appointed to deliver the Ila to La Paz.
"What you must understand here, Gene, is that the cabin in this boat was still pretty gamy. The only way we could sail her was to remain above decks en route. Our engine took a crap, and we finally got a little breeze and sailed into Muertos Bay. We wanted to tie up to the pier at Hotel Las Cruces, but the guard ran us out and we anchored out for the night. We slept on deck wrapped up in the jib.
"The following morning, I was able to get the engine restarted by changing spark plugs and messing around with the distributor a bit. We arrived in La Paz and anchored the boat in front of the Los Arcos Hotel. I figured that since the boat was to be unattended, all valuables should be removed. I took off everything, including charts and radios, and brought them back to Rancho Leonero.
"The owner of the Ila showed up at Rancho Leonero raising hell with Gil for stripping his boat several weeks later. He threatened a lawsuit. As for the disposition of the body of the fat sailor, Tony Marron who was a chamaco when the Ila drifted remembers the occasion. He stated that Manuel Fiol, who was delegado in La Ribera at that time, ordered the cadaver be buried in La Ribera.
"The kid that was on the boat when it hit the beach was locked up in the Santiago jail for a few days and released. I seem to remember that Ted Bonney later related that the boat was ferried to San Diego where it was refitted. Since I'm the only living participant in this yarn, I guess I have the prerogative to tell it the way I remember it."
As a final detail of the Hot Boat Story, Jimmy added that when he first entered the boat cabin, he discovered certain parts of the dead sailor's body lying in the passageway. Discretion prevents me from revealing the exact nature of those body parts, but suffice it to say that the sailor most assuredly would not be having further need of them. When Jimmy came up on deck with the "parts" in his hands, Gil Powell, Ted Bonney, and Doc Ross--as Jimmy says--"all tossed their cookies and retreated to the panga that we had tied off behind the Ila. They refused to come aboard the Ila after that, and I had to do the whole clean-up alone."
And that--amen!--is the end of the East Cape Hot Boat Story.
(HOT BOAT STORY PART 1, HOT BOAT STORY PART 2)
(Related East Cape articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main East Cape information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the East Cape area in "Mexico Fishing News.")