From La Paz to Mackerel Flats

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Steve Price, a.k.a. “Swabby” Steve, was part of the crew on our recent FUBAR voyage from Ensenada around the tip of Baja to La Paz.

While I mentioned the abundance of trophy fish we caught and ate in a previous column, we also witnessed pods of blue whales, grey whales, orcas, whale sharks, hundreds of porpoises, and the ever present Grey Pelicans.

Upon first sighting of a Pelican, Steve Price would immediately recite the poem taught to him as a child by his lifetime boating buddy, his Dad:

“Amazing bird the Pelican.

His beak can hold more than his belly can.

He can hold in his beak,

Enough food for a week,

And I don’t know how the hell he can.”

While all boaters are accustomed to enjoying this wonderful sea fowl, the levity that this brought to the voyage was enjoyed by all.

Steve also passed along his delight of belonging to a local yacht club that I had never heard about. This caused me a lot of consternation as I always thought I knew a lot about our harbor and clubs.

Last week I met with Steve and fellow Mackerel Flats Yacht Club member Bonnie Quiggle, along with her husband (a past commodore), and talked about the club at their shared space at the Newport Beach Yacht Club adjacent to the Balboa Island Bridge.

I learned that this yacht club was formed in the mid-1970s for fun; boating was secondary. In the beginning it was a light-hearted and sarcastic refute to the formal Newport Harbor clubs, and as the few original members lived on Balboa Island, they used the sometimes local past reference by islanders of their home being “Mackerel Flats.”

A member’s used toilet seat hangs full time beside Avalon’s Marlin Club dive bar cash register, which is awarded following their annual Avalon Golf Course competition. A boat raft up in the Newport Harbor turning basin anchorage is held annually in September. November is their annual desert weekend near Palm Springs.

This is the kind of fun theme and events that were in abundance in my youth, which also reminds me of the ever popular Character Boat Parade that was dropped years ago by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. These events and clubs, such as the Balboa Island Sculling and Punting Society that my Grandfather was a founding member of, reminds me of the hugely stoic urban atmosphere of our present community.

The society included the mini-tugboat “Michigan” (still afloat in our harbor), which was placed on a railroad flat car so the members could take their boat to Las Vegas for a weekend. Following that stunt, they loaded a railroad passenger car on a barge so they could take the train to Catalina Island.

In the mid-70s our smaller A-framed mooring barge lifted the sunken “Michigan” and pumped her out to “rise again” beside her Rusty Pelican dock berth. Cocktails followed in the bar with cartoonists Virgil Partch and Dick Shaw, who were a part of those adventures.

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

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