The Buzz on the Bisbee

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I’m always interested in the annual Bisbee’s Fish Tournament in Cabo San Lucas. Several former residents of our area have excelled over the years in the contest.

Bob Bisbee, who started the tournament, for many years ran two fuel docks on Balboa Island. I first met Bob around the early ‘70s, when he and John Broughton ran the fuel dock east of the ferry on the Island. That site now is a modern office building – I believe it’s owned and/or was built by the family that controls the swap meet at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

After several years, Bob became the principal tenant on the west side fuel dock. For many years Mr. Nelson had a Shell fuel dock there and the local fuel tug operated across the bay at the Chevron dock owned by the Hill family. I don’t remember the exact timing of the changes, but Mr. Nelson left, Bob Bisbee took over and the operation became a Union 76 fuel dock.

Some years on, Bob started visiting the Cabo area, aiding sport fishers making the trip south for excellent fishing grounds. He also met many locals and raised money and hauled clothes and needed items to an orphanage. When at work he set up a single side ban radio to communicate with the sportfishers at the cape. He would arrange boat and engine parts to be shipped south for needed repairs. I suspect his help became a little lucrative, judging by his attention to those projects.

Following many years of traveling back and forth and actively shipping boats, parts, and crews south, the “Bisbee Black and Blue Tournament” was formed. This year a first-time winner took a $2.4 million dollar jackpot. Part of the money would aid several charities in the Cabo area. Wayne Bisbee, Bob’s son, has operated the tournament for about the last 10 years. I haven’t seen Bob for many years, but friends have said he is still living in our area.

If memory serves me well, one of the first skippers to win was Cami Garnier. Cami was raised on the Balboa bayfront and took to catching fish at a young age. Following high school he worked on a few sportfishers, obtained his captain’s license and skippered some of the nicest sportfishers in Newport Harbor. Following the passing of his folks, he purchased a sizable portion of land in the Cabo area and has fished and lived in that area for probably 25 years or more. He met and married a couple of different local gals over the years that didn’t work out, and I think he’s a bachelor after the marriages helped deplete his bank accounts.

One of his crewmen from Cabo, Tony Nungary, followed him up to Newport Harbor in the ‘80s. He worked for our marine construction and mooring business for a year or more. Upon his return to Cabo his mooring knowledge was put to work and he created a mooring field outside the marinas that could save visiting yachts substantial money as an alternative to berthing in a marina.

Tony also became a licensed sportfisher captain after learning the ropes and skills from Cami. He then went on to operate several local charter boats, but the owners would arrive each year and fish the Bisbee and he won the tournament three times! Cami was a great tutor – without knowing he was training his future competitor. Tony also followed Cami’s example and used his sizable cut of the prize money to invest in local property.

It’s been many years since either has won the Bisbee. I think Tony also has depleted his assets through divorces. Funny how that happens.

Switching locales to Avalon, it had three major tournaments last month and all three benefited island charities. One tournament had prize money, but a small fraction of the Bisbee’s.

Years ago my Dad had a satellite real estate brokerage in Avalon. He humorously called it his “overseas office.” The mayor at the time was one of his sales people. Also, a friend who was a Newport Chamber member decided to switch careers, move his family to Avalon and sell real estate through my Dad’s business.

It was slow going for him and a real eye opener to learn the culture of the locals. If you hadn’t been born in a local family or owned homes in Avalon for 50 or more years, you were an outsider. The family had an unpleasant two years living there and subsequently moved off the island to achieve peace and harmony.

I’ve seen many examples of Avalon’s closed society since then. If you want to spend your money there you receive a subtle hospitality response, but anything else, “mainlanders” receive a cold shoulder and sometimes even contempt.

A very nice couple from Arizona started spending the hot months on their 42-foot Grand Banks berthed at Ardell Marina. Eventually they purchased a 26-foot Century new from Scott and Marie Schock at their Cannery area business. This high-speed small yacht would enable them to purchase an Avalon mooring, leave the Grand Banks there and go back and forth in the Century.

One weekday they came back to pick up their mail and return the following day. I would estimate the cost of their mooring at the time to exceed $500,000. When they returned, their Grand Banks had been moved to a dingy part of the mooring field. When Bob, quite upset, talked to the Harbor Master he received an in-your-face insulting response. Bob quickly returned, sold the mooring and the Grand Banks, and has never returned to Avalon.

Following that incident he purchased a really nice, big motor home, and has been cruising the Western United States. Beware of pirates!

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

Steve Barrett is a yacht and marine construction consultant and can be reached at [email protected].



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