Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I finally got started reading this book over the holidays, and  So, SPOILER ALERT, for any of you who care about such things in this case.

I'm fascinated with the boat, THE VAGABUNDA,  that the Lamb's made their journey by sea from San Diego down one side of Baja and up the other and then down the coast of western Mexico and Central America to the Panama Canal and finished their trip after traversing the Canal.

It's more of a craft, rather than a boat, per se. It reminds me most of a cross between a decked canoe and a small sailboat like the AMF Sunfish, with it's removeable mast and centerboard.

I've got a good friend and compadre who I've had courtroom adventures with, and he's built several boats since his semi-retirement as an attorney. At least one of them was an extremely fine wooden kayak built with great finesse, expensive and attractive woods and extremely fine woodworking, which he ultimately sold for several thousand dollars.

I almost have him hooked into talking seriously about a project such as this. He's in the throes of a romance right now, and that will probably be the big part of him not having the time to be committed to a project like building a boat similar to this.

But at least he'd be a consultant, and I already know as a friend he'd make the time for that, no matter how busy he is. He's already given me some links as to Kevlar and fine wood suppliers as well as some high tech materials suppliers. 

I wish my high school or college lit professors had this book on their reading list. It's far more entertaining than The Great Gatsby or Tess of the D'ubervilles. Jeez. Although there was lots of interesting literature in college and high school classes, some was dreck. And unfortunately, many of my teachers were *far too into* these authors and expected you to be entralled as well.

I remember Ms. C, who was an old maid school teacher in her 40's who was "into" The Great Gatsby. Obsessed would be a better word. Even sort of in the way she dressed, not like a flapper certainly, but in a very modest form like that of normal (i.e. not characters in TGG). Good news prevails, Ms. C got married some years ago. Finally, I'm sure her family said. 

Many of us drifted off in a daily daze that spring in our sophomore high school year as Ms. C went on and on, and then on and on some more, about TGG. She spent three times the amount of hours on this book as opposed to the other classes, as teachers were permitted to be flexible on subject matter then.

In her defense, she was trying to get us to think, which is something they don't do a lot of in any academic program anymore. Unfortunately, I didn't see it that way at the time and didn't make the most of it. I'm not sure I could spend a hour a day for months talking about the TGG at this time in my life either.

I suspect Ms. C would find Adventurous Vagabonds to be amateurishly written and lacking in subject matter that interested her.

I'm about sixty pages into the book. They've started on their way down the Pacific side of  Baja California, and it sounds like I would imagine it to be.

Which, since it is a more or less off the cuff "let's see what happens next" type of travel plan, leads to some interesting side adventures our travelers certainly didn't plan for.

There's not much discussion of the actual construction or design of their boat The Vagabunda, although there are a couple of contruction pics which are also readily available on the net. There's a few words about the construction, but not enough for what inquiring minds want to know.

The boat is an interesting mix between canoe, kayak, sail boat and surfboat, about 16 feet long, and covered fore and aft. Made of canvas over a wood frame, no doubt with glues and sealers and paint layers over all of that. Dan, as Ginger Lamb calls her husband, is sketchy on the details of why he designed the boat like it was and, again,  too bad I can't ask him questions about it's design.

One interesting fact was briefly referred to. Apparently the Lamb's built a mud mold over which to bend and glue/attach the wooden beams and rafters and such on the boat.

From Texas History in college, I remember that's how the Spaniards built the early missions and churches with the round. domed roofs in Spanish Texas. They would build the outer walls of the structure and then fill it with dirt and make a rounded top and over that they would somehow (adobe, plaster, bricks, wood frames...I'm fuzzy on the specifics) build the domed roof, then after the roof set and was hard and sturdy, they'd empty out the dirt mold through the doors and windows of the building.

If you've seen some of these chapels and missions, you'd know that was an AWFUL lot of dirt moving by hand.

That professor of Texas History was equally obsessed with the minute details of his subject as my former English teacher was. But since I was more into the subject matter of Texas History than I was The Great Gatsby, I recall arcane factoids like the one above in my memory, whereas I've blocked pretty much all of what I knew about Gatsby.

Back to the Lambs. For the time, circa 1930,  I suppose the boat was a revolutionary design for what it was, but I'm not man enough to set sail in THAT craft on the open sea anywhere. 

From looking at it, it wasn't much more than an AMF Sunfish sailboat sized boat really, with of course a far different design. It had 2 foot deep sides, much deeper than the Sunfish, perhaps more like a Lazer class boat. 

I've been in a brief foray into the Gulf of Mexico in a 16 foot long O'Day Daysailer, a heck of a boat. It was skippered by a great sailor who really knew that boat and the area and sailed extremely well for the conditions.

It was no treat to sail the ocean blue in that small craft, which I suspect was far better designed for handling waves and such than the Lamb's craft, which is on display at the  Los Angeles Adventurer's Club.

When you look at the picture of the actual boat at the link above, it becomes clear to anyone with a knowledge of the power of the oceans and waves just how *daring do* this expedition was. This was life and death stuff at every corner, and that was just getting ashore. There were plenty more challenges in just that first sixty pages.

I'll write more about this book as I go. There's some interesting stories to be had, and frankly, I'm a bit envious of their adventure.

I'm not sure you could do it at all these days. Bandits. Drug Traffickers. Criminals in general. And that's just in Mexico.

I know folks could make a trip like this on a true sailing craft, a larger ocean capable sailboat or powerboat that could handle the waves and swells and storms an ocean brings. I've known folks who would frequently sail to places like Guatamala and other Central and South American ports, being on the water weeks to months at a time.

But they were well equipped in larger boats. Still, their much larger boats were just a mere speck on the ocean, so imagine how much smaller a speck THE VAGABUNDA was in the vast Pacific. 

My friends had ER quality first aid supplies, including defibs, all kind of food and water stocks, motors, batteries, appliances, a restroom, liferafts and all other kinds of gear costing tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that's just the boat and gear, not counting dock fees, port entry fees, etc, because my friends were not landing on the beach as were the Lambs.

I've read accounts, and even looked online at pics of their boards, of folks who have taken large surfboards down the coast from here to there in various oceans and gulfs. Again, very studly. Very admirable. Like swimming the English Channel or climbing Everest et al. Something very few can do.

That's not the kind of challenge I'm looking for at this stage of my life. I guess that's why the Lamb adventure appeals so much to me. Some of it is planned and much is not. There are problems along the way and adventure results. So far, they're making it ok, and it will be interesting to see what their next port of call holds, and the journey in between those ports.

I just this minute remembered one of my favorite books from my teen years, the story of the KON-TIKI  expedition and the subsequent  RA and RA II  expeditions.  The late Thor Heyerdahl was like a Jacques Cousteau, an explorer, an adventurer.

Thor Heyerdahl set sail across oceans on crafts built to ancient specifications and with the classic materials and methods of construction and tools.

So I guess my earlier interest in Heyerdahl, and I still have that RA book from the early 70's on my bookshelf at home as it's still a compelling read, might predict my interest in the journey of the Lambs.

Time to go read some more.

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