With a firm hand the young pangero twists open the throttle, the outboard springs to life with a growl. The panga slices through the satin surface on Conception Bay headed for Isla El Coyote. It is a perfect day to visit Aubrey Westly, an American expat living a unique retirement dream. I have been invited out to see how Aubrey lives aboard his 20 foot sailboat moored off El Coyote beach south of Mulegé. I am certain there are rich stories that could fill a book or two. This seafarer, writer and inventor has chosen to embrace a very different kind of life for his 80 years.
We pull alongside Aubrey’s boat, Peaches. Einstein, the first mate begins to bark and lets the Captain know that we are here. Einstein, a perfect example of the smart and loyal Mexican street dog, has become Aubrey’s constant companion. One of the first stories I was told before coming out was how Aubrey had intended to leave Einstein on land with friends when he set out on his solo journey into the Conception. Einstein would have none of it. He swam after the vanishing boat until Aubrey gave up, turning around to retrieve the wet, but happy dog. Aubrey admits, "He loves this boat. It is his home now and his loyalty to his Captain puts me on my knees."
I clamored aboard. I am surprised, actually astounded, how small the living space is. Aubrey is 6 feet tall, and his long limbs barely fit below. He has one seat from which all things can be reached; the galley, tools and his “office” where all the visionary work happens. We sit topside as there is no room below for a guest. The water is crystal clear and Aubrey informs me that the Conception Bay is rated as one of the ten cleanest waterways in the world. I can see all the way to the sandy bottom below while schools of brightly striped Sergeant Majors swirl in after the corn meal Aubrey throws to feed them. The sun heats things up and I have a thought to jump in with them. It is quiet and still on the gently rocking boat. Moored far away from all concerns of humanity, it is easy to see why a man and his dog enjoy this tranquil simplicity.
Aubrey has just completed a nine-day sacred Navajo ceremony which required he have no human contact or work of any kind, so he is happy to have a visitor today. Called a “ya ba shay” this has been a guarded secret. However, Aubrey lived with the Navajo for ten years, being the only white man in an 800 Navajo settlement. He was honored in this way for his work with the community. Through grants, he worked with the young Navajo in their expressions of art, creating a common bridge between the youth and the elder storytellers to expand understanding and assure the Navajo traditions.
Aubrey has been living in Mulegé on the shores of the Conception for seven years. He built what he calls Casapanga using two pangas as the double hull. Casapanga is his residence on land and not yet been tested in the water. Looking a bit like Noah’s ark, he lives off the grid with solar panels and water from Mulegé’s underground source. Always seeking to serve others, he taught the school children of Mulegé how to build a wind generator that won second place in a statewide competition. Retirement is not really a word in Aubrey’s vocabulary. While he longs for his solitude on Peaches for creative time, he certainly is not lolling aboard with a satellite dish. His ideas of these later years exemplify a passion for life and living true to his own calling. I’ve been following his progress for years.
People might think that Aubrey is done with dreaming. He shares what the Navajo believe, “In order to change the world you have to first change your dream.” A visionary’s mind never rests and Aubrey is launching his next and possibly largest project to date. He calls it Outermost AdvenTours. Recently he met a man in Mulegé who is funding the vision to create state of the art Kayaking adventures for disabled war veterans and those physically challenged. The adventure tours open up the gulf waters to serve as a healing process for the true spirits of those who have served their country. The non-profit Outermost AdvenTours will serve all people who desire to explore the outer islands of Conception Bay and will include small groups having a keen interest in knowing Baja. There is most definitely a book in the works and what better title than Sailing with Einstein.
Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com