Many times people ask Ed and I “why did you end up in San Carlos, Sonora with a Marina?“, and our answer is always: DESTINY.
Ed was born in New Jersey. His grandfather Charles Grossman was very adventurous and moved to Mexico. While in Mexico, one day, in 1945, he won almost a million dollars in the Mexican Lottery, so he went back to New Jersey and asked his son Leo, who by then was married and had three children to come to Mexico to help him set up a business.
The whole family came down and the two of them started a pharmaceutical laboratory called “Grossman Laboratories” in Mexico City. It was a very successful business. Eddie went back to the USA, this time to California to school. When he was 21, his father invited him to come back to Mexico to work at the Lab. Eddie’s grandfather had been killed in a plane crash going from Mexico City to Veracruz and Leo was running things by himself.
Eddie hated the cold weather in New Jersey, especially when his Dad used to make him go out the window in the morning to shovel the snow, so they could open the door. When he arrived in Mexico, he loved the weather and he loved Acapulco. His father then bought a boat in Miami and brought it to Acapulco through the Panama Canal, in the late 50s and was one of the charter members of the Acapulco Yacht Club.
At that time, cruising from California to Acapulco and back was more of a daring adventure than it is now, so Eddie got his captains license and started taking boats up and down the coast. He became an avid fisherman and scuba diver.
I was born and raised in Mexico City; my Dad was in the movie business and was the Mexican producer for a Tarzan TV show, which was filmed in Acapulco. He took me there to work for him, and one day we rented a catamaran from a dive shop, to put the camera on it when they were shooting in the water. The owner of the dive shop was Alfonso Arnold. We became friends, and he taught me how to scuba dive. On weekends I would help Alfonso teach diving, and diving became my favourite sport. While other girls would go to the disco and stay up late, my life in Acapulco was work and diving. Sometimes I would go diving, catch some fish, have it for breakfast and then go to work at nine.
All this time Eddie was also Alfonso’s friend and went diving a lot together, but we never met, until Alfonso organized a diving expedition to the Caribbean. We wanted to dive on a sunken ship, called the “Matanceros”; it had sunk in the early 1500s. Cancun didn’t exist then, it was just the most beautiful place in the world, and totally virgin. There were about 30 divers in the expedition, and that is where destiny got us together.
At that time I had just come back from Europe were I went to school. After the expedition I got a job with Qantas, the Australian airline and I didn’t see Eddie for a while. I had been a Stewardess for Canadian Pacific before I went to Europe and now I wanted to fly for Qantas, so I was on my way to Australia.
Just before I left, I saw Eddie at dinner party were all the divers that had gone to the expedition got together and he told me that his Dad’s boat was in Los Angeles and he was going to pick it up. It just happened that I was going to LA and then to Hawaii and then to Sydney to work. Eddie got to LA first and picked me up at the airport and took me to my friend’s house where I was going to stay. We said good bye, he was going back to Mexico and I was going to live in Australia, so we didn’t think that we would meet any time soon.
While I was in Hawaii, Qantas went on strike and instead of sending me to Sydney, they sent me back to Mexico. Since I didn’t have to work, I went to Acapulco and Eddie was just arriving with his Dad’s boat from LA. I went to Alfonso’s dive shop and there was Eddie in all his splendor. The next day we all went diving on his boat, a 54 ft. Christ craft, and then out for a sunset cruise and then for dinner on the boat in Puerto Marques, with romantic music and what can a tell you, by the time the strike was over, I was in love.
I did go to Australia anyway, but Eddie called almost every day and I quit my job with Qantas and came back to Mexico and started flying for Canadian again. We dated for over a year and decided to get married.
I wanted to go to Tahiti for our honeymoon, and I got the tickets for free, but his Dad had sold the boat to comedian Bill Dana and Eddie wanted to take it back to LA to deliver it. So we left Acapulco to go on the boat to LA for our honeymoon. After leaving Cabo San Lucas, the weather turned really bad, the waves were over 10 feet high. They would pick the boat up, and when the wave was gone, the boat would slam on the water with a horrible noise. I was very sea sick and took a couple of Dramamines and went to sleep. About 1:00 am, the boat was picked up by one of those waves and when we landed, the bow of the wooden boat split open. Water started coming in very fast. Eddie went to wake me up and asked me to pack, I was so drugged with Dramamine that I didn’t know what was happening, so I asked “where are we going” and he very calmly said “we are sinking”. I was still half asleep, until I got up and my feet got wet.
I had had emergency drills every six months when I was a stewardess and it sure helped. We took blankets, water, etc. and got into two dinghies with the crew, one was an inflatable raft and the other one a small fiber-glass boat. The boat sank in 15 min. and there we were, in the Pacific, about 50 miles north of Cabo and 30 miles off the coast of Baja. It was pitch black and the ocean was so rough, that it was hard to keep the fiber-glass boat with the bow to the surf, so we wouldn’t turn over. It was the first of April 1968 and the water was freezing.
Just before we went down, Eddie sent an SOS on every channel, but got no answers. I thought the next day, we were going to see boats everywhere, and we were going to be rescued, but no, the whole day went by and nothing. At night you could feel something going under the rubber raft, I don’t know what it was, but we were praying that it wouldn’t be sharks. During the day, a turtle came at the rubber raft with her mouth open. I had to hit her with a casserole that I had brought to get the water that was coming into the boats out.
During the first night we did see the light of a boat. We had flares, but the first one we lit was a night flare, with just orange smoke, and by the time we found and lit the other one, the boat was gone.
Our chances of surviving were not very good. Even if we made it to shore, we would have to be lucky enough to find a beach, then with the bad weather , the surf was high and landing on the beach would have been difficult, and if we did make it to shore, it would be the middle of the desert and we would die anyway.
Finally the third day, we heard a plane, Eddie was sure that they were looking for us, as no commercial flights had that route, but it was overcast, the plane came out of the clouds for a few moments and disappeared. I few hours later, we heard the plane again, this time we lit the flare and the plane saw us and made a sharp turn and flew right over us, on the belly of the plane, with big letters it said “USA COAST GUARD.”
What had happened was, that a boat from the Scripts Institute of Oceanography was coming back from South America and one of the officers that was on watch heard our SOS and called the USA Coast Guard and they had been looking for us. The same boat, called the David Star Jordan, picked us up, at first it was hard for us to stand up, our legs were cramped. After that, I took the warmest and nicest shower I have ever taken.
When we got back to California, Eddie decided that he wanted another boat, if it were up to me, I would have never gotten on a boat again in my life, but I was young and in love and that’s what Eddie wanted.
By then, his Dad had sold the Lab in Mexico City and Eddie decided to take a sabbatical year and cruise all over the Mexican Coast. His Dad’s boat, the one that sank, was called the Reina Roselee and it had a crew. Eddie bought a Grand Banks 42 and I was the crew. Just before we started cruising, he bought me a sweat shirt that said “slave” his said “master”. I thought he was kidding but no, I was the slave.
Before I got married, at my parent’s house we always had help. I didn’t know how to cook, wash or any housekeeping shores, now I had to cook, wash, clean, change the oil, take a watch all night; I didn’t think it was fun. On the Reina, when I wanted to fish, the crew prepared the hook, pole, etc. and when I caught something they would clean it and cook it. I had never cleaned a fish. The first fish I caught on our boat, that we called the Mysterry, I didn’t know what to do, Eddie was driving the boat and he expected me to kill it, clean it and cook it. I didn’t want to touch it, so I flipped it into the boat and stepped on it to kill it. All the guts and blood came out and I made a mess on Eddie’s new teak deck. When he saw it, I thought he was going to throw me overboard, but instead he gave me a brush and made me clean it.
We cruised for about a year, I learned to cook and everything else and then I got pregnant and that was the end of our boating adventures and the begging of the most wonderful adventure of all, motherhood.
I wanted to live in Mexico City, but Eddie wanted to move back to California, so we ended up in LA. To my surprise, I found out that being Mexican, Catholic, and with a Jewish last name, was not cool. I had always been very proud of my Polish ancestry, but to top it all, I found out that in the USA, all stupid jokes were about Poles. I wanted to go back to Mexico City; I missed my family and my friends. After eight years in LA, I was so unhappy that Eddie decided that he would come back to Mexico, but not to Mexico City. While we had been cruising Mexico, we noticed the need for a marina, where you could leave your boat safely. So we started to look for a place in Baja where we could put a Marina, but all the good places were too primitive, no road, no water, no power, etc. Eddie figured that we would never get our money back if we had to pave roads, put water and power in, so a friend of ours mentioned that there was a small marina in San Carlos, Sonora.
Eddie and I had never been here, but we thought it would be a good place for a marina, since there were a few boats already here and we would have some cash flow. By the time we realized how difficult it was to get all the permits, we had all our money invested and we had to pull it through.
At that time, there were no marinas in Mexico, only the Acapulco Yacht Club, but since all the politicians had their boats there, they had no permits and no one cared.
The marina in San Carlos didn’t have any permits either, and since it is in Federal Land and water, we had to get all the permits in Mexico City. The problem was that this was the first marina, so no one knew what permits we needed. It took us over seven years to get all the permits, but all that time, we kept improving the marina and growing, we figure it was easier to pay the fines, than to wait to get the permits.
Eddie made fun of me, because I wanted to come back to Mexico because they didn’t like Mexicans in LA, only to find out that in Sonora they hate people from Mexico City, they call us “chilangos”. I have been here for 30 years and to every Sonorense I am still a Chilanga. It has been very hard work, but San Carlos has been good to us. We are close enough to the USA so we go often.
Twenty years ago, the tourism department asked me to start an association of everyone that wanted to start a Marina, so we could figure out what we needed together, so I did it is called Asociacion Mexicana de Marinas Turisticas, A.C. and I have been the president ever since, so I have been going a lot to Mexico City all these years, to see my family and get my fix of smog.
I felt guilty that my two girls were growing up in such a small town, but they seem to think that it was a good place to grow up. They went to school here most of the time, they tried going to school in Mexico City, in Europe, in the USA and they both came back here, so I guess they weren’t unhappy. They say that they enjoyed their childhood here.