Thursday, December 23, 2010

Baja Child Needs the Gift of Noise

The total cost of Hania’s device and surgery will be approximately $30,000 USD; to date more than 60% of the $30,000 or $18,000 has been raised.

When Hania Lopez Sosa was barely eight months old, her mother realized that her treasured baby girl was not hearing or reacting to sounds when she tried to play with her.
A local doctor recommended that the infant be taken to an ear specialist for tests, the results of which confirmed the upsetting news that Hania had a severe hearing defect. Further tests revealed that despite being equipped with the most sophisticated hearing aids available, the precocious seven year old would not be able to live a normal life. Hania, who lives with her parents in San José del Cabo BCS, is unable to hear or speak. 
The hearing specialists prescribed an alternative for Hania. A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a profoundly deaf individual. Unfortunately, the device and surgery required is very expensive and well beyond the family's resources.  According to the doctors, timing is critical and the younger Hania is when the electronic device is implanted, the better, in order to facilitate her ability to speak.
Oscar Daccarett, Sport Fishing Commissioner, Baja California Sur, moved by Hania's touching story, directed Clicerio Mercado, Coordinator for Circuito Copa Gobernador Tournament series, to organize a last-minute benefit tournament to be held in Cabo San Lucas to raise funds to help with her surgery.

Circuito Copa Gobernador Tournaments were founded by Baja Sur’s Gobernador Narciso Agúndez Montaño and Sr. Daccarett in August, 2006 to introduce sportfishing not only the adults in the many small communities that dot the coastline of the state Baja, but to the children as well. During the past four years, sixty-three tournaments have been held in small communities throughout the state with more than 26,900 anglers participating in offshore, inshore and beach fishing. 
Clicerio Mercado, Tournaments Coordinator, using the expertise and resources developed for these events, turned the attention to the plight of Hania Lopez Sosa and her need for the expensive surgery which could alter her life.  The result was the Tornero de Pesca which would both increase the awareness and raise additional funds to implant the cochlear device and  to provide the medical care necessary, as well as the on-going therapy needed to improve her speech.
The event began with registration at the Wamongo Restaurant on the Marina Boardwalk on the afternoon on the 10th of December. The following morning the tournament began with the traditional  flare gun start at 8:00 a.m. Ten teams with forty anglers participating sped off in different directions in search of the winning fish. Fortunately, the fishing was good and the weigh-station which opened at 2 p.m. was busy until the official closing at 4 p.m.

Solomon’s Landing and Baja Cantina hosted the awards banquet and like the old days twenty-two years ago, cash awards were given for the largest yellowfin tuna and wahoo.  The winners were:
1st place, Larry Loschuk, 41.6 Lb $20,000 Pesos
2nd place Carlos Jimenez Partida, 41.2 Lb $15,000 Pesos
3th place Victor Saiza, 23.4 LB $10,000 Pesos
Tuna Jackpot $2,000 Pesos was won by second place Carlos Jimenez
1st place Chris Fuller, 11.2 Lb $20,000

Each of the winning teams volunteered  25% of their winnings to Hania's fund, amounting to over $1,500 which was generously matched by the Bisbee’s Tournament organization.
Sra. Dolores Concepcion Zenteno y Sr. Francisco Talamantes Mendoza, grandparents of Hania were on hand and thanked the organizers and participants for their interest and generous contributions.

Clicerio Mercado also suggested that anyone wishing to contribute to the fund may do so by mailing a check to:
Dolores Concepcion Zenteno
Restaurant Wamongo
Boulevard Marina
Tesoro Los Cabos Hotel, C-6
Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S
The total cost of Hania’s device and surgery will be approximately $30,000 USD; to date more than 60% of the $30,000 or $18,000 has been raised.

What could be better this Christmas Season than giving the gift of noise to Hania? Allowing her to enjoy the best Christmas of her young life… instead of the world of silence that greeted her at birth, the anticipation of a lifetime of noise.

Mex 1 Road tips and observations

A word of caution: Mex 1 is similar to a secondary road in the States. However, it is frequented by large semi-rigs and buses; your speeds should be adjusted accordingly! 

Driving Mex 1 is always a blend of emotions…the novice and often the seasoned traveler is excited by the  adventure, but both can also experience the anxiety of the unexpected as the wheels of their rig touch the first of many speed bumps (topes) and the stoplight flashes red or green signaling whether they continue or pull into secondary.

My last trip which began in early October and stretched out nearly seven weeks is a good example. I had heard of a recently passed Mexican law that restricted how many American dollars could be exchanged for pesos south of the border. The government had recently enacted the change to control the number of dollars entering the country's banking system, hoping to curb drug-related money laundering. The law, however, does not limit credit card, debit card, or ATM withdrawals of pesos. According to the State Secretary of Tourism for Baja California, “Hotels, restaurants, stores and other merchants in Baja California still gladly accept U.S. dollars."

Since my routine has been to stop at the Casa de Cambio at the inspection area in Tijuana and load up on pesos specifically for gasoline, I wasn’t sure what would happen as I approached the window and thrust five one hundred dollar bills into the slot on this trip. The woman behind the glass promptly exchanged the stack. However, I found that at the other end of the peninsula the new law was being strictly enforced with the exception of the Los Cabos Airport where I managed to exchange another $500 at a ridiculously low exchange rate. I found that another option is to use ATM machines that charge more reasonable service fees.
Mex 1, which stretches more than a 1,000+ miles south, will always have areas of road construction and detours. As of early November the most notable began after the second Toll Booth at Rosarito Beach. Road construction there had southbound lanes re-routed to the northbound lane, reducing traffic-flow to one lane in each direction.   

The next heavy construction area is south of Maneadero beyond the La Bufadora turnoff for about five to six miles. Traffic in both directions is routed onto a bad dirt road parallel to the regular road. Proceed with caution; the entire stretch is poorly marked, bumpy and very slippery when wet. There is no way to avoid this section that ends a short distance before the military checkpoint at the top of the hill before dropping down into Santo Thomas Valley.

There are also several bridges under construction with little if any delay as the detours around them are paved and well marked.

The last major road construction project is below La Paz where Hwy 1 turns into Highway 19 to Todos Santos and Cabo. Below Todos Santos a large stretch of road is pure dirt with minimal markings making for very dangerous driving. This area should be approached cautiously.

Military checkpoints  are a mix of both floating and permanent locations. Currently there are checkpoints north of Santo Thomas, north of El Rosario, Millers Landing turnoff, North of San Ignacio, north of Loreto, north of La Paz and Todos Santos Highway 19. I tried something that seemed to expedite my stops this last trip: When stopped, I lowered my window and instead of waiting for the usual ‘do you speak Spanish’ routine, I simply offered to get out so they could inspect the vehicle. By doing so, I shortened the total inspection time significantly. Was it a fluke or was it because it happened to be a Sunday?  Quien sabe (who knows)? But it is definitely worth a shot.

A word of caution: Mex 1 is similar to a secondary road in the States. However, it is frequented by large semi-rigs and buses; your speeds should be adjusted accordingly!

Another huge change is that gasoline stations with convenience stores attached are popping up all along the highway. The only area where stations are still in short supply is between El Rosario and Jesus Maria.

One more note for even the seasoned Baja driver: Always check the dates on your Mexican insurance policy before you cross the line. 

Once again, for a longer period of time than usual, I traveled the length and breadth of Baja and never encountered even one drug-related problem.

Another Welcome Baja Tool

Even if your catch is not a possible record there are plenty of other functions…from planning your next trip, to tracking your IGFA Slam Club progress, to sharing your catches with family and friends.

Rob Kramer, International Game Fish Association (IGFA) President  and I had an opportunity to visit recently during the annual meeting of the Avalon Tuna Club. Kramer had just returned from Italy, where he had attended an International conference coordinating research and conservation efforts among many groups to provide a more unified international conservation voice.

Kramer's excitement was palpable over the Take Marlin off the Menu  campaign advancement of the Billfish Conservation Act (Bill HR5804), and which he expects to be reintroduced in the next session of the house and senate. This is the result of an extensive national  campaign beginning over two years ago following a study commissioned by IGFA that revealed the United States to be the world’s biggest importer of billfish.  IGFA and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation have joined forces focusing on educating the American public as to what billfish are, their role in the marine ecosystems, and their imperiled status from commercial overfishing. The two-and-half-year campaign has gained the enthusiastic support of many, including the Wolfgang Puck Restaurant chain and the Wegmans Supermarket chain along with many U.S. policymakers. The legislation is the culmination of the campaign’s efforts thus far, and when approved and voted into law, will put a complete stop to commercial harvest, sale and importation of billfish in the United States.

Next, Kramer showed me his iPhone, which was loaded with the beta version of a very cool, new IGFA app.  It offered a remarkable list of features that once downloaded to the phone would provide the latest IGFA data and can be accessed even in remote locations where you may not have cell service.   

Suppose that you land a big fish which you hope could be a world record contender; regardless of where you are, you have the entire IGFA world record database updated with the latest records on over 1100 species in your pocket. This allows  you to verify your potential world record catch on the spot, releasing any that might not be a contender.  The app will also provide you with the location of the nearest,  official IGFA Weigh Station, along with maps to direct you there.

Or you might want to consult the IGFA International Angling Rules – for both conventional and flyrod – to make sure your catch won’t be disqualified.

Even if your catch is not a record there are plenty of other functions…from planning your next trip, to tracking your IGFA Slam Club progress, to sharing your catches with family and friends.

There is an extensive IGFA Species ID, including incredible full-color images of every record game species by marine artists Diane Rome Peebles and Duane Ravers.  The descriptions include extensive reference material with thorough habitat information, geographic distribution and anatomy…all right there at your fingertips.

That's a lot of information for any angler to have at their fingertips, but there's much more. Take a photo with your iPhone of the huge fish you landed, enter the details of your fight and upload to Facebook or email with one easy step, including GPS coordinates.  

Create your own customizable wish list of species that you want to target or your progress toward various IGFA Weight Club (for bass, snook, or bonefish) or IGFA Slam Club. 

It even offers a trip-planning function that will allow the angler to plan ahead for a great day on the water.

My personal list of "Don't leave home without it" already includes  SPOT,  a Garmin GPS loaded with Baja Navigator map, and now the new IGFA Mobile App will be included in that list. (It’s only available from the IGFA.)           

For all of you who are Apple-deprived, President Rob Kramer informed me that another version for other smart phones is already in the works. At an introductory price of $8.99 the IGFA  iPhone Mobile and iPad App is a must-have item for any Baja angler.  This would make a terrific
Christmas present for the Baja angler in your life!

I.G.F.A. iPhone Mobile and iPad App