Sunday, August 26, 2007

Striped Marlin, New Businesses, and Helping our Local Community

I have been back now 2 weeks in Loreto and starting to feel healthier and getting back into the Baja lifestyle and rhythm again. My team is great and looks after me, trying to keep me balanced. It is a tough job, but they work very hard at it. My part is to keep them guessing and full of surprises as to what we will do next. I wish I knew but part of the fun and challenge is the unknown and staying flexible to take advantage of the right opportunities.

Birthdays are always very important at Nellie`s and we like to celebrate as often as we can. Our barman Sergio has started a tradition of serving “cucarachas” which is a shot glass of tequila, Kailua, topped with brandy and lit of fire. You drink it through a straw before the fire goes out and it definitely makes you feel young again! Happy Birthday to Andres and Juanpablo! Let us know when it is your birthday, and the “cucarachas” is on me.

Juanpablo is a mild manner quiet non-drinking accountant. But after a “cucarachas” followed by a beer chaser, the staff thought he was up for anything. They wished him a happy birthday by putting his face in the cake. I think this is a little payback for him always challenging their expenses! In good spirit and showing that he had the last laugh, he ran around and kissed all the girls that were part of the scheme and shared the icing on his face. Pretty kinky stuff … you had to be there.

It is hard to believe that Jeanny and I started together with a shell of a building and no real plans in October 2006. Andres was my second employee and for a while it was just the 3 of us figuring out how to make my ideas happen. I told them then that when we opened we would have 7 employees and within one year, we would be at 14. We are now at 14 employees and it is not one year yet. They now admit that they thought I was crazy but simply said “Si”. Jeanny toasts us all with a “submarino” which is tequila in a shot glass upside down with a cold beer. When you sip it, a little tequila gets released at a time. Interesting how many ways you can consume tequila!

The Catch of the Week was a striped marlin over 100 lbs that was brought in by Justin Page of FN183. Justin and his son Taylor went out on REEL TROUBLE and wanted to catch a “Big One”. Be careful what you wish for! The waters were rough when we got out to where the big fish run and we were so thankful that we were not on a ponga where you really take a beating going the distance.

It is a beautiful sight to watch the big fish jumping out of the water and trying to get away. I got to drive the boat while Chino watched to see when we needed to run with the fish or straighten the line. I am learning so much about these waters and I think this will be one of my most fun businesses! It took over 40 minutes to bring in the marlin and was a real team effort. It is the biggest fish that Justin has ever caught and released.

After all the work of catching the big one, the thought of catching Dorado was a little anti-climatic. We headed back to the smooth waters and beaches of Coronado and had a refreshing dip in the 80 degree water. The boys went snorkeling and came back to the boat for a cold beer and lunch. Justin said “Life doesn’t get any better than this!” He is so right!

The big business news in Loreto is that C.C.C. Superstore is coming to town. They have purchased a large parcel of land on the highway in downtown Loreto and will be building their new store, along with another Bancomer Bank Branch Office. Banking in Loreto is at the top of the list of frustrations. The endless hours waiting to do simple transactions and lack of English communication and customer service is unfathomable for most of us accustomed to Private Banking in the USA and Canada. BajaBOSS has been working with the Bancomer Bank Manager for the last 6 months to stress the importance of improving this system. We are very pleased to announce that all BajaBOSS clients will now receive Preferred Client Status for their business dealings. This means private personal service with an English speaking bank representative. We are working closely with the Bank Manager and his staff to make sure our clients get the BEST service that they are accustomed to.

C.C.C. is a Superstore with produce, bakery, meat, and dairy counters that rival all the grocery stores that we are used to. They also sell many items for home and it will be a big boast for Loreto. Originally many of the small businesses tried to keep them out of Loreto, but change happens. C.C.C. will be great for Loreto as a tax base, providing product and service, thereby competition. It seems the local Mexicans are more excited about C.C.C. coming than the foreigners are, as we enjoy shopping in the little local shops and outdoor market on Saturday.

Dorado Loreto Properties is offering a large 27 acre parcel on the highway directly across from C.C.C. It is good flat land, with title, and great for a large developer who wants to take advantage of location for a mixed use residential – commercial development. We have been told that C.C.C. will open late this year and you can see by the pipes and trucks of materials they are not wasting any time. Now is the time to secure land and get in on the ground floor just as the Mexicans are.

Yolanda is happy to be back to work making tapas and being part of the BajaBOSS family. She is a terrific cook and we want to start having a dinner one night every week for Loreto Bay Homeowners to gather when they get into town and meet. Not sure what day yet, but as soon as more people let me know they are arriving, we will start.

We wish to thank my friends for contributing to Yolanda`s trip to Guatemala to bring back some of her family. We raised $2000.00 USD which paid for Yolanda and her son Bryon to take a bus to Los Cabos, fly to Mexico City, then to Guatemala and return with Alex. Yolanda left Guatemala 15 years ago for a better life, and it was very emotional for her to go back. She is shown here with her aunt and her niece Wendy. Wendy has 2 children, 7 and 4 years old, and Yolanda is working on their paperwork to have them join her in Loreto as soon as possible.

They had many obstacles with Immigration in both Guatemala and Mexico and managed to finalize papers for 15 year old Alex to come back with them to Loreto. Alex is the tall boy shown here with his family still in Guatemala. He is doing well in school and integrating well in Loreto. He appreciates being here very much and I am sure will make Yolanda proud.

Birthdays are special everywhere and here they are celebrating Yolanda`s great nephew’s 4th birthday. He is the son of her niece Wendy and perhaps one day will come for a better life and opportunities of Loreto.

This is Alex’s house in Guatemala, where 3 people live. It is a wake up call for us to see the vast differences in creature comforts and lifestyles. We have so much yet from this I can see why some of the locals wonder why we complain when we have so much wealth. We have vast land and rooms for only 2 people, and seldom invite more to stay and eat.

The Mexicans and Guatemalans love their families and time together is a daily event. Here the whole extended family has a meal in modest surroundings, but everyone is welcome and happy to have food to share. The two brothers at this table are the only men, and having large families is a way of life.

Yolanda has 9 people living in her home right now. This is all family, which comprises of 6 adults, 2 teenagers, and 1 eight month old baby granddaughter. Her home has 2 rooms for sleeping, plus one bathroom. She has an outdoor kitchen and dinning room with a palapa roof and dirt floors. She is an extremely hard worker and is always smiling. Please help me, help her. Although I participate in many charities, both with time and money, I normally do not ask my friends to get involved, but somehow Yolanda has touched my heart with her spirit and drive, and I must do whatever I can.

It will cost her $5000 USD to enclose her kitchen, eating area and add one more bedroom. This will provide cinderblock walls with some windows, cement floor and ceiling to keep out the rain and wind. She and her family have saved 25,000 pesos and I have agreed to raise the additional $2500 USD to help her. I know many people promised to contribute but it was difficult to get the cash to me, so if you are still interested in donating a little or a lot, please let me know and we will find a way to get the money to buy supplies. There are many people like Yolanda out there, but we must start helping one at a time. Thank you to all for reading my blog and being part of our community.

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Nothing Beats Being on the Water in Loreto!

This morning it rained in Loreto off and on for about 6 hours. It was wonderfully refreshing as the temperatures dropped to the high 70’s which is about 25 degrees F less that it has normally been. Tip of the Day: The best time to go out and hose off all the dust and dirt on your walls and deck is during one of these summer showers. It is warm and refreshing and you are able to use the rain to wash all the dirt from the walls and down the drain sprouts. Normally at this time of year the water evaporates almost as soon as it hits the ground so trying to keep up with the dirt in 100 degree heat is hazardous to your health, as you end up getting third degree burns on your feet and sun stoke, not to mention that you are literally melting as you sweat and dehyrdrate to a slow death.

The new bridge in Loreto is now open and held up well. There was no flooding and aside from the downtown streets that are still not paved, all was good with the shower from Mother Nature.

My body went on strike this week and succumbed to getting sick. I was popping the strongest drugs I could get at the Farmacia to dull the pain enough to at least work 8 hours a day. Our bodies are much more pragmatic than our minds. Our minds contain the memory bank of vitality and energy that we enjoyed in our 20’s and 30’s, which serve to keep us in a state of delusion that we will be young forever. Whereas our bodies give us signals and clues when we need to take care of ourselves and preserve the vehicle of life which we naturally take for granted. Most of us A-type personalities have no patience with being sick, yet it is important to recognize this time so that we are more appreciative when we recover and things start to look positive and endless once again. I do not mean to sound like a Fortune Cookie, but if I have to be sick and miserable… I may as well try to get something out of it.

The highlight this week was taking my maiden voyage on our new boat – REEL TROUBLE. We left at 6 am with my friends Dana and Laura from Calgary with their boys Cody and Dusty. These are the sunrise photos that we saw as we headed out to catch our bait for a day’s fishing. Laura was a little apprehensive of the trip as many people are from landlocked areas. But after being out for 20 minutes, I knew she was going to have a great day on the water that was as smooth as glass.

Here’s our Captain Chino Yee, with our Celebrity First Mate of the day, Darryl Jones. The secret to a great day on the water is the captain. Chino has been fishing these waters for 30 years, speaks good English, and knows all about customer service. We were all really amazed when he spotted a sailfish a mile out and then chased it down with the boat. He let me take over the controls while he baited and threw out the line directly to the target.

Then he handed the rod to Dana, and within minutes – this fish bit. It was truly amazing and Chino never gives up! We all cheered as we saw the sailfish jumping out of the water and trying to get away. Dana had his hands full trying to bring in the big fish, but it soon broke the line before he managed to get it near the boat. We were going to release it anyways, so the thrill of the catch was still the same.

It was really fun to watch the boys Cody and Dusty get excited about fishing as neither had ever caught anything more than small trout in the lake. Dusty led the way by catching 18 bait fish within minutes, and then both boys brought in Dorado over 20 lbs. Here’s Cody with this prize catch which is priceless. I can only imagine that this is the BEST summer vacation for these boys. They loved being on the water and in Loreto.

The Dorado have finally started running in Loreto as the water temperatures have taken a while to warm up this year. Seeing all the boats out in the water and the hopeful faces of the fishermen waiting for the biggest challenge of the day is a very simple pleasure. Everyone is watching the water for sailfish, marlin, and Dorado to give them stories to share until the next time they come back to Loreto.

It is invaluable having a great captain who knows the waters and is on the radio sharing information in spanish with all the other captains about where the catch is minute-by-minute. We are so very lucky to have Chino and he treats the boat as his own keeping it immaculately clean constantly. He loves to catch fish and take people out to the islands to share this beautiful area.

We encountered several pods of dolphins and they ran with us for a while. For some reason they love to pace with the boat and entertain the tourists. They are larger than the porpoises that I am used to seeing in the Northwest. Having become accustomed to seeing them often now, I get my biggest kick from people that see them for the first time.

There is something about seeing Dolphins jumping high in the water that makes a normally reserved person squeal with delight. It seems at times to be an almost synchronized effort when two or three dolphins simultaneously jump at the same time. The height of their jumps is amazing considering the size of these mammals. Keep your eyes open on the water and you will see manta rays, sailfish, marlin as well as flying fish all going airborne at one time or another.

After we were done fishing, we decided to have a scenic tour as the boys have never seen seals before. We went to the place where they hang out and initially did not see them in their usual spot as it was far too hot in the direct sun. We went around the corner and sure enough they were hanging out in the shallow waters keeping cool.

When they saw us coming closer, they sat up for a better look to see who was visiting. Several jumped into the water to swim out either to greet us and wave, or simply because we woke them up and they needed to cool off. What a life!!

We tried not to get too close to this mother and baby, but they did not seem to mind and were accustomed to the curious humans that were so enthralled just to view them in their natural habitat. These are the things that we must be very cognizant not to change as progress inevitably comes.

After a long hot day, we headed out to Coronado Island where there is crystal clear water and white sandy beaches. It was such a surprise for our guests. Just around the corner on the same island there was black boulders and rocky beaches. We all jumped into the water and it was wonderfully warm and buoyant. As Dana said “Life does not get any better”. This was a perfect way to end a great day on the water.

I like to sport fish and especially cook the fresh catch that I end up keeping. We all gathered while Yolanda helped me cook up the fish fillets with butter and garlic, and a fresh vegetable salsa on the side. Nothing beats a great meal that you have brought in yourself. Joining us at the table was Russ Demers of FN109 and his friend Sean. We toasted Champaign to many more great days with friends in Loreto! Salute!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Home Sweet Home - Back to Loreto

Victoria is part of the Capital Regional District and made up of 13 municipalities and three "unincorporated" areas, with a total population of over 320,000. Each of these areas has its own by-laws, rules and regulations affecting home-owners. Now you know why I function so well with the local bureaucracy in Mexico.

Even though it is a relatively large city, in many ways it is still a small town. I visited one of my favorite restaurants and of course … just like Loreto … it was everyone else’s favorite as well. It was great to see Ed and Darlene Tait as well as Cliff and Jackie Ross. Many of you will remember them from their years in Loreto Bay. Ed and Jackie are now part of the senior management team building and marketing Dockside Green, which is a 15 acre new harborfront community. Darlene is using her endless energy and talent to head up Westhills, which is developing 6000 homes in the Greater Victoria Region. I am very happy with their success and look forward to seeing them back in Loreto, even if only to visit, very soon!

I had dinner with Bob Johnston, FN41, who is a principal with Cannon Design heading up their Sports Architecture Division. Bob is currently working on the Speed Skating Rink for the Olympic Games 2010 and has recently been hired to work with the Games in London for 2012. Cannon Design is an international architectural, engineering and planning firm with a staff of over 700 working in 15 offices. Their work takes Bob traveling worldwide in pursuit of sports facility excellence. It was so interesting to talk about all the different places in this world to visit.

Our flight was delayed leaving LAX to Loreto, so I chatted with a few fishermen that have been coming to Loreto for over 10 years. They love this area and are disappointed that it is changing but recognize that it is inevitable. I invited them to Nellie´s Place where you can still get a cerveza for $2 USD and they had a great time. They are shown here left to right: Frank, Rick, Steve, Doc and Jimmy all from CA.

First thing I had to do was to meet Josh Swift, my partner in Velero Del Mar, and go and see our new sports fishing boat – REEL TROUBLE. Josh was part of the crew that brought the boat down from San Diego to Cabo in 4 days! He definitely knows how to manage it in open waters now! It is moored at Puerto Escondido and ready for charters soon. We are giving homeowners and friends a 20% discount on the charter rates. In addition, we are now accepting memberships for our VIP clients, so that the boat will be available and ready on your next trip.

It has a terrific galley with air conditioning, slips 3 to 5 people and is very nice. Initially we were going to have a luxury yacht, but until we have more residents the smaller fishing boat is what the market wanted. This a wonderful boat that can easily accommodate 6 people for day trips to the islands to snorkel, picnic, and see the wildlife. Our members can take the boat with captain overnight to the islands for that special occasion or just to highlight a terrific vacation.

The fishing is the part that really excites the guys. The boat is outfitted with great new fishing reels and rods, it has bait tanks, fishing towers and all the comforts for a great fishing experience. The boat can easily accommodate 3 to 4 serious fishermen, with some others along just to enjoy the ride. Reel Trouble has 370 twin Cummings engines, depth/fish finder, sonar, autopilot, GPS, and all the bells and whistles. We are putting together our marketing materials now. Email me for more info.

It is so good to be back home in Loreto. Today I ventured off the beaten track again early this morning and came across some more beautiful remote beaches and bays. I am looking forward to using the boat to explore and get a totally different perspective of the area. We saw miles and miles of waterfront with not a single boat, car or person in sight. Incredible!

We headed north, and then found a dirt path to the water and traveled another 10 or 15 kms along a good dirt and gravel path where the only inhabitants we saw were many well fed cattle. Free to roam, safe from the cars and population. There are so many hectares to explore, but you must find them yourselves. I have been sworn to secrecy by each individual that shows me their special place and I can only entice you by showing you what is waiting for you to find.

This morning was the Baja 400 race, which is a local event and quite a big deal. The parade of dirt bikes, ATVs, and vehicles were on parade along the malecon at 7 am this morning. This is a picture of all the spectators out on the new bridge watching and cheering as each competitor passed. The whole town supports these events and they are a great practice run and keep the town excited about the Baja 1000 race to come in October.

Alison Acosta, FN308, came down with her sisters and friends to relax, play, and enjoy the sun. From left to right they are: Alison, Felicia, Lynn, Lena and Janet. They were having Janet´s birthday celebration tonight at Nellie´s Place. Mark and Alison are among my great friends and supporters and I appreciate everyone who comes and spends time at Nellie´s Place building our new community. Please let us know if you have a special event coming up and we can plan something in advance for you.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beautiful Pacific Northwest - USA and CANADA

Victoria is a very beautiful city and offers a diversity of outdoor activities and scenery. This is the view from the lookout point at Mt. Douglas which is a favorite place to hike the trails among the large area of natural wilderness. We cheated and drove directly to the top to see 360 degree views of the city below us, and surrounded by the snow capped Olympic Mts. of Washington State in the distance.

The BC Ferries is the only car transportation available from Vancouver Island and they offer many different routes to the Mainland, Gulf Islands and Queen Charlotte Islands. The 1.5 hour sailing from Victoria to Vancouver is one of the most reasonably priced cruises that I have been on after the 10 cent Star Ferry Crossing in Hong Kong. The area is approximately 5,200 square kilometers in size and includes 13 major islands and over 450 smaller islands. This area is renowned and cherished for its stunning physical beauty, significant biodiversity, gentle climate, and unique scenic, rural, and marine character.

The cost of a car with 2 passengers is approximately $65 one way and very enjoyable if you do not have to rely on it regularly as a mode of transportation. There are two Super Ferries that measure 560 feet long (picture two football fields back-to-back). These vessels can accommodate up to 2,100 people and 470 vehicles. As you approach Vancouver the shipping dock for coal is a major landmark and often you see international freighters loading in a very “Mad Max meets high tech" type of environment.

The weather is a wonderfully cool 70+ degrees and the fresh air from the ocean and trees is refreshing after the last year in Loreto. From the ferry terminal to the US Border Crossing is an easy 30 minutes, and we held our breath hoping that there was no long lineup. This Canadian flag could be seen a mile away and was made up of flowers.

People were having picnics and throwing balls at Peace Arch Park that is situated at the border and symbolic of the open gates between our two countries. Peace Arch State Park is a 20-acre day-use park commemorating treaties and agreements that arose from the war of 1812. The park celebrates the unguarded United States/Canadian border that stretches from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Seattle is a beautiful city and I once had a home in the nearby district of Redmond six years ago. I had forgotten how beautiful the city is when it is not raining. The lush green trees and boulevards are everywhere as one navigates the freeways and many bridges to get around the city. My daughter Carlie and I stayed with friends in The Eastside’s “Gold Coast”. The area is made up of Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, Hunts Point and Medina. Located on Lake Washington’s shoreline west of Bellevue, the “gold coast” communities have long contained some of the region’s most powerful movers and shakers.

We had dinner with Bruce Milne, Chairman and CEO of Corum Mergers and Acquisitions. Bruce and his wife Rebecka are Loreto Bay neighbors and we chatted about life in Loreto and all the developing projects underway. They invited Carlie and I to a wonderful little Italian restaurant where we enjoyed steak with gorgonzola sauce and salads, with a nice selection of wines. I love Seattle!!

The number of yachts, speedboats, and sailboats situated in the Seattle Harbors is astounding. There are many estates with their own private dock capable of mooring a 120 ft yacht in front of their home. My favorite was visiting Bruce’s newest business – Luxury Expedition Yachting. I received a tour of both the 100’ Katania and 120’ Kayana yachts both have recently gone through major retrofit. There were so grand that it was impossible to get both ships and the Seattle skyline all in one photo. Check out their website at to get more information.

Carlie and I headed back to Vancouver for a few days to stay at one of my favorite hotels in the world. The Four Seasons in downtown Vancouver is not necessarily the newest or offers the best views, but it has the best central location to walk and enjoy the eclectic lifestyle, restaurants and shopping that this cosmopolitan city offers. Everyone in the hotel always seems to remember my name and their friendliness and assistance is truly impressive.

Vancouver has changed so much in the last 5 years. The old seedy areas downtown have been revitalized and the streets are very clean. I noticed the absence of homeless people and can only assume that they are being directed to Victoria and the Okanogan in anticipation of the upcoming Olympic Games in 2010.

Vancouver is a highly dense and international city. Every type of ethnic food you can imagine is available within a few blocks of every stop light. From the very chic and trendy to the “hole in the wall” offering great food at reasonable prices. The city is surrounded by mountains and water, and one of the very few places in the world that you can golf, ski and sail all in one day.

I had dinner with Leroy Earl Fuller, who is the Chairman of Earls, Joey’s and Cactus Club Restaurants. Earl loves two things - food and people. So it is no surprise that in 1954 he opened his very first restaurant to feed local farmers of Sunburst, Montana. Leroy is a very interesting man and moved to Edmonton to start A&W Restaurants and now has a formidable chain of brand name restaurants across Western Canada and the USA. These 3 restaurant chains combined serve about a million customers each month. That’s 12 million a year!! I am working on Leroy to consider Loreto as his next destination for expansion.

Hope you have a great week!