During our delayed
stay in Arizona, we decided that we would have a local mechanic we knew,
completely rebuild the truck. The idea was that when we did come back from
cruising we would have a good vehicle that we wouldn't have to worry about.
We had just installed a new
motor before leaving Florida and after the transmission fiasco we now had a
new transmission. So why not go all the way.
So we took the truck in and
told him to replace or rebuild all wheel bearings, hubs, disk rotors, drive
shaft bearing, u-joints, shocks and basically any moving parts under the
We ordered new wheels and tires and had the Gear Venders overdrive rebuilt.
A week and a half later we
headed for Phoenix and on to Mexico.
After an easy trip back to Mazatlan where we discovered NOTHING had been
done on Flying Cloud
by Bob Buchanan from Total Yacht Services. We decided to get off the
boat because it was just too difficult to live and work on the boat. We
rented a condo on the beach and moved-in, taking a lot of the boat stuff
I had planned on taking time in the evenings to read all the detailed log
books that came with Flying Cloud.
We arrived one night, tired and wore out from working on the boat in the hot
weather. I didn't feel up to unloading the boat stuff at that time. Thinking
I could do it next morning when it was cooler.
The next morning we went
down to the secured parking lot only to discover that the truck was gone! In
total shock I looked everywhere and couldn't find the truck anywhere. What
the hell now!
We called the police,
talked to the SECURITY Guard and got nothing but dumb-ass questions.
Then I remembered that the
previous afternoon I had returned from town with the truck and as I walked
past the little espresso shop, I was hailed by Rafael (Bob's partner), one of the mechanics
that was supposed to be working on Flying Cloud. He was sitting with Ray,
the broker that sold us the boat, at an outdoor table. I stopped to see what
he wanted and he asked what sort of alarm did I have on the truck.
I said "a good one", not wanting to give any details.
" I can get past any car alarm. They are useless", he said.
I made some comment back, just wanting to go on to the boat.
Then he said," I think I will steal your truck tonight".
I just walked away and forgot the whole thing. Until now! His words had come
We spent the entire day going from one Mexican Judicial office to another.
We were questioned and had to fill out reports with the City Police, Federal
Police and the State Police.
At one point they separated me and Teri and the detective asked me "do you
know who her lover is"?
I couldn't believe what they were implying. Then he asked, "do you have
your keys for the truck?', Then he wanted to know where her keys were. I am not
sure what they thought when we left. But basically they told me that Teri's
lover had stole my truck to get back at me. WOW!
So at the end of the day,
Teri's birthday, we were met by some friends and they suggested we all go
have some dinner and try to settle down a little bit.
We headed for a little restaurant-pub in the Marina Mazatlan and sat down.
As we were talking about
all that had happened that day, we were interrupted by one of the local yachties
who said he was looking for me.
He then told me that the US Coast Guard was on his single sideband radio and
wanting to talk to me immediately.
This seemed an odd thing to happen after such a crazy day. But he then said
that my EPIRB from Flying Cloud was going off and I needed to talk with them
I went with him to his boat
and he hailed the Coast Guard on the SSB. I talked with a female Major that
asked me to identify myself. She advised me that my EPIRB was sending out a
false Mayday. I told her I would go right to the boat and turn it off. Then
I remembered. The EPIRB was in the back of the camper on the truck.
When I told her this she said, "well that explains why it is showing a
location near Lipscomb Texas".
I told her the story of the truck being stolen and that she was actually
tracking my stolen truck.
She thought this was great and asked that if I would contact her in an hour
while she contacted local law enforcement to intercept the truck.
I returned to my table at
the restaurant and we all toasted to the fact that these guys were going to
get busted and not even know what happened.
I returned to the radio
excited that these guys were getting caught and made contact with the
officer that was tracking the truck. She wasn't happy about what had
transpired while I was away.
She called the local police in Lipscom Texas and explained the situation. He
responded by telling her that according to the National Computer data base,
this truck was not reported stolen and therefore there was nothing he could
do. Frankly he didn't care anything about the fact that there was a mayday
being broadcast. (I believe it is a very expensive penalty for false EPIRB
I asked if she still had a fix on the truck. She said "No. the truck stopped
about 45 minutes ago and after sitting for about ten minutes, the EPIRB went
I was crushed again. Just could not believe that a police officer would not
intercept this vehicle if for nothing else, transmitting a false Mayday.
She gave me all the co-ordinances she had logged and then said she would
call the FBI Office and see if they could assist.
I listened as a lady answered the phone and told her that there was no one
available to help. "It's Friday night and there won't be anyone in the
office until Monday morning".
The Coast Guard officer explained the situation and the ladies response was
insane..."If the fellow you are helping was dumb enough to take his truck to
Mexico, he deserves to have it stolen".
I could not believe what I had just heard.
I chatted with the Major
for a few minutes and headed back to my group at the restaurant. This was
The next morning I
contacted the the Sheriffs Department in Arizona where the truck was
registered. I explained the situation and they said they would have someone
contact me on my cell phone.
An hour later I got a call
from an officer that said he was at my address and had knocked on the door,
but no one answered. I explained that I was in Mexico. He said there was no
way he could take a stolen vehicle report without me being there.
So as we tried to find some way to get the truck reported in the US as a
stolen vehicle it became clear that we would have to go back to Arizona and
meet with one of the only two Border Auto Theft agents in Tucson Arizona. So
we found someone to take care of Shorty (our little Corgi) and hopped a late bus headed for
Nogales at the boarder.
The bus was slow and loud.
Mexicans love their music loud. But we managed to catch some sleep huddled
together, trying to stay warm. They also had the AC at full tilt.
Sometime in the middle of
the night, maybe 2 AM or so, the bus stopped and a Federally came on board
and told everyone to get off the bus. They rounded all of us up in a small
fenced area with some very young guards keeping an eye on us.
I was still trying to wake up when one of the young guards came towards me
and said something in Spanish that I didn't understand. Still in a daze and
trying to wake-up, I just smiled and looked the other way.
Then all of the sudden he shoves the barrel of his Uzi right into my rib
cage and repeats the same thing.
I said "English Por favor" and he then he started pushing me and making
gestures for me to do something.
next thing I knew he turned me around and started to frisk me. When he
finished everyone laughed and we got back on the bus.
Sleep came easy once again and we eventually arrived in Nogales after a
miserable 18 hours on this bus.
We walked thru town towards the border crossing.
As we re-entered the US I was asked if I had anything to declare. I said'
hell no, they stole near everything we had". The lady took our passports,
scanned them and told us to move-on.
We made our way to the insurance agents office that had provided our Mexican
insurance and reported the situation to him. While there we called and
rented a car then headed out for Tucson.
We arrived twenty minutes after the Border Task Force office had closed. So we found a room
and called it a day.
On the bus ride I was using my Blackberry to find us some sort of vehicle to
buy. We needed a vehicle that could be trusted to make it back to Mazatlan and
still be able to tow our cargo trailer back to the States.
I made some calls and found a nice Ford van in San Diego, Ca.
Next morning we arrived a bit early at the office of the Border Auto Theft Division and
sat down outside to wait.
Once they opened we went inside a small lobby where there was a secretary
seated behind at least an inch of bullet proof glass. I went to the window
and was told to wait. As I waited she called everyone she knew and carried
on long conversations while I just stood there. My patience was reaching the
breaking point when I heard Teri behind me, at the top of her voice,
screaming for someone to help us out. The lady paused for a moment and said,
:what can I do for you'?.
I explained that we were
here to see one of the officers ( we had their names) and she promptly told
me, " they are both on vacation and only one of them will return next week".
I (or rather Teri) demanded that someone help us.
The lady called someone and told us to have a seat. Then she went right back
to her phone conversation with her friend.
Eventually a guy came and
got us, took us into the back of the building and said that he would try to
It all came down to just one more failure of a government employee not
knowing what the fuck to do.
He got a standard Auto Theft form and explained that he didn't know how to
fill it out. Teri took it, filled in the info, handed it back to him. He
signed it and said he would get it on the National Database immediately.
We drove away in the rental
car, got on highway 8 and headed for San Diego. Sure that we were going to
find a vehicle that could do the job.
At the State Line, we were
advised that we could not take that rental car into California.
So, at the
Arizona/California state line we gave it back to Enterprise Rent,
walked across the street and rented one in California from Hertz. We arrived around
6:00 PM to look at this van. After a test drive, we handed him the cash and
At the airport we dropped off the rental and then headed out to find a room
for the night.
Teri didn't know it, but I
had a plan and I was ready to move on it. I wanted to go back to Kingman
Arizona where we had rented two storage lockers. Once there I was going to
get out some nice firearms that we stored and I was going to Lipscom Texas
to the co-ordinances that the Coast Guard Major had given me. I was going to
find the truck and take care of these shits that had done the deed. After
all, it wouldn't be the first time I had cornered some thieves. Plus we had
plenty of reason to believe it was Rafael.
We headed to the house in
Fort Mohave and spent the night. It was For Sale and empty, but we slept on
the floor and got some rest.
Teri eventually talked me out of going to Texas, so we tried to figure out
what to do next. The decision came pretty easy. We had accomplished what we
needed to do. File the theft report. So, why not just go back, re-group and
plan to get out of Marina Mazatlan ASAP and very quietly. I would go to
Lipscum, TX at a later date and alone.
We arrived in Marina
Mazatlan in the late afternoon and as we walked past the espresso cafe,
there sat Rafael again. We ignored him. But as we walked by he said, " I see
you lost one people mover and brought me another one". Referring to the van.
I wanted to strangle him. But just walked on.
We did everything we could to get the boat ready. But the mechanic had held
back the flywheel and a couple other required parts, just so we couldn't
install the engine on our own.
With a lot of shouting we eventually managed to get him to finish the job.
In the meantime I had been
doing some snooping around in an attempt to get something on this asshole
regarding the truck theft. I did manage to figure out how it all came down
and even that there were some other players I hadn't suspected. My snooping
only started some threats and slowed down the boat work.
I went to get some parts at the Parker store and a stranger approached me
and said, "I see your wife shops at the Gigante market alone sometimes".
Then he advised me to stop sticking my face into things I should be afraid
of and he walked away.
Other threats came at odd times, so once the engine was in the boat we
started doing sea trials.
First day out the engine over heated and had to be shut down. Further
investigation disclosed a red plastic plug that had been inserted into the
water intake for the heat exchanger.
I cleared it out and started the engine again.
This time it ran for a few minutes and shut down. A piece of plastic crammed
into the Racor filter inlet.
So it was clear to us that
we needed to leave Mazatlan. The decision was made to take the van and our
cargo trailer to Quaymas where we would later haul out Flying Cloud to make
the final repairs.
We waited for the weekend to come knowing that no one was ever around the
Marina on Sundays. I took the van and trailer late Friday night and set out
for Quaymas. I arrived early in the morning, paid advance rent to the yard
owner and got a ride to the bus station.
After a very long bus ride back, I arrived late in the evening. We had done
our provisioning before I left so Flying Cloud was ready. Just after sunrise
we headed out and North toward Bahia Conception. Leaving Mazatlan for good.
Eventually a lot of the
facts as to what really happened came out. We were contacted by the Border
Auto Theft agent. But only after writing to Senator John McCains office. A
liaison was appoint to assist us in any way we needed. I was amazed at what
started happening after his office got involved. Since I was still an
Arizona resident, that placed me in his district.
After many conversations
with the Border Theft Taskforce agent it became clear that they didn't steal the truck
for its value.
Instead, it was a pretty sure case of this guy stealing a truck that had a
2,000 mile range in fuel onboard and it was a diesel 4 X 4 and it had a
small camper shell on the back. He believed it had been used to transport illegal's into
Apparently this guy was able to carry close to 14 people and take them
across at some remote border crossing.
The thieves knew that if they stole the truck on a Friday, we would have all
day wasted in filing all the Mexican Reports. They also chose Friday because
there would be no way I could file a theft report without coming in person
to Arizona. With all these delays on my end and the truck still operating as
a legal vehicle in the States, it gave them a better chance of getting their
task done before everything came crashing down.
There were two unusual circumstances that made the theft of our truck
Normally, once they deliver
their people cargo, they take the vehicle out into the desert and burn it.
The other of course was the EPIRB that went off, giving away their
So it played out like this.. the truck was stolen and the guy (Rafael) knew
that this particular truck was so well equipped that he could sell it to a
chop shop and make some additional money.
He took the truck, ran as
hard as he could, all day and all night, crossed the border and dumped the illegal's, then headed
toward Lipscom where he knew he could sell it to a local chop shop.
The EPIRB had been stored in a cabinet inside the camper and had been placed
in a purple Crown Royale bag.
Someone in the back of the camper got curious about what was in the
cabinets. They found the Crown Royale bag, opened it and started fiddling
around with the EPIRB. In the process they set off the signal and tossed the
EPIRB aside, not knowing what it was.
This is when the SAR
station in Alameda California first picked up the signal and tried to track
it. They had recorded the truck moving as fast as 85 miles per hour headed
towards Amarillo Texas
. With the target moving
and being on land they acquired the name of the registered owner of the
EPIRB. I had not changed it to my name, so the guy we bought the boat from
was still in the database and they contacted a family member of his
They advised him of the situation and he called Ray the broker in Mazatlan to find out
what was going on.
Rays wife tried to find us and when she couldn't she put a call out on the
VHF radio. Someone answered and told them we had been seen at this
She then called the fellow that she thought was closest to the restaurant
and he made the call to the Coast Guard to establish communications. Then he
came to find me.
Once I talked to the Coast
Guard as he was listening in, he had the full story. When I left his boat,
he called the yacht broker and told him the story of what was happening.
We later found out that after he advise the broker of the situation, a cell
phone call was placed to a cell phone tower in Texas. This person placed the
call to the thief and told him that an EPIRB was going off in the truck.
The truck then stopped for a few minutes and the EPIRB went dead. Assuming
that they found the EPIRB and manually switched it off.
The next morning the EPIRB broadcasted another signal and the SAR team was
working on refining the position when the signal started to fade and
eventually went dead completely.
SAR felt that the battery had finally gone dead.
As this was coming down, we were being distracted with reports and a weekend
wasted trying to get the truck reported as stolen back in the States.
After all we had been thru
at this point over the past year, we just wanted to go someplace and be left
the Hell alone. Especially away from the threats.
So after my return from dropping off the van and trailer, we set sail very
early on a Sunday morning planning to sail non-stop well into the upper
regions of the Sea of Cortez where we could just kick back and forget all of
But, that wasn't to be.
At some remote anchorage one morning I decided to tune into the Baja Net on
single side band and just listen for a while. Maybe get some weather report.
Then came a call from someone in Mazatlan that was wanting to find the
location of Flying Cloud. I certainly did not want to tell any one where
Then another vessel came on in response and advised this person that Flying
Cloud was anchored in a cove along one of the islands.
It wasn't us because we had kept to our selves.
then a few days later another inquiry came over the net. Again someone told
them that Flying Cloud was at another location. But not our location.
After a few days we figured
out that there was another Flying Cloud in the North part of the Sea of
Cortez and it was their friends that gave these reports. As far as I know,
they never figured out where we were. But they certainly tried because the
other boat was not the one being sought.
Eventually we sailed to San
Carlos and made arrangements to have flying Cloud shipped to Tucson.
We anchored in San Carlos, hitched a ride to Quaymas, picked up the van and
trailer. where I was told that two men had been waiting for me when they
found out that my van and trailer were being stored there. The marina
operator promised he would call them if I arrived. I asked that he not do
that for fear of violence. He agreed. Whether he called them or not, I have
no idea. However, once we were sure Flying Cloud would be headed North by truck,
we left Mexico as fast as we could to NEVER return
Some months later while
Teri went to Nebraska to visit her mom, I decide to take a road trip to go
get her. It just so happened that from where I was at the time, I could take
some back roads and go all the way to her moms while passing thru Lipscom
I took all the Coast Guard fixes and followed them to the last one. It was
an intersection of a road that turned North (along my route) or I could
continue straight and be passing some more remote areas.
Using Google Earth I
plotted all my fixes and then looked at everything surrounding this
intersection. The EPIRB was no where to be found of course. So I made a plan to wait
until dark and start looking around on the dirt roads around this area.
Eventually I found ,about 4 miles from the intersection, a ranch with a huge
metal barn. it was very remote so I pretended to be someone lost on the road
and drove right into their driveway. I slowly looped around to head out when
I noticed that beside the barn were four late model Ford dually in various
stages of dismantle.
I quickly snapped a few photos and without ever being disturbed by anyone,
turned and drove away. A few months later I contacted the Texas Rangers and
talked with an agent in Amarillo.
I gave him all my info and suspicions and he said he would look into it and
get back to me.
I had given up when one day
he called to tell me that he had joined up with the local Sheriff and they
had flown over the property to take a look. He didn't need to take photos or
pursue it any further because the Sheriff already knew that there were two
brothers known to be dealing in stolen Ford Trucks and parts and that it was
just a matter of time before they could catch them.
The last I heard of it was
when I went online to check the trucks VIN number on the stolen vehicle list
and my truck was no longer listed. Meaning it had been found
but there was no disposition on whether it was retrieved or scraped.
There are a lot more
details that I uncovered while trying to trace the truck to it's final
But I have made the
decision to leave out certain parts for fear of retaliation or them finding
out where I live.
Rafael was definitely
connected to some very dangerous people.