Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shooting Star, Part 8: La Paz-to-Cabo details

At the tip of Baja: Cabo San Lucas
     (For parts 1-7 of the series, see here.)

     I have heard back from Mr. Lyle Overby (LO), who generously provides the following answers to my questions:
Tom Klein
   DtB: “All that we have learned thus far is that at least one of [brothers John and Tim Klein] was acting as a “caretaker” of the boat, and that he had been serving in that capacity probably since April.”

   LO: Tom Klein [Executive Aide to OC Supervisor Ralph B. Clark] knew the boat owner, [political strategist] Fred Harber, personally and well, and very much wanted to be around him, so that when he was offered the chance for a free trip to Mexico, he quickly agreed and encouraged his brothers to go along. It may be that Tom had one of the brothers working on the boat as a revenue source. The boat wasn't big enough to have a captain and crew, but there is always something to be done on a boat once you have an engine, electronics, heads, electrical and gas systems on board.

   DtB: “I’ve also learned that the Shooting Star was taken out for a four-day fishing trip in early May. Were you on that trip?”

   LO: The boat was taken out almost every weekend. It would be like the boat owner [Harber] to conduct a shakedown voyage before leaving for Mexico.

Ronald Caspers
   DtB: “Reportedly, the June trip was planned at that time [in May]. Did you know the three Klein brothers, including Tommy? Anything you might tell us about them would be greatly appreciated.”

   LO: Of the three Klein brothers on the trip, I only knew Tom Klein – personally and well. It seemed to me that the other brothers looked up to and followed Tom. Tom had a dynamic and confident personality. [Tom was eldest of the three.]

   DtB: “We were under the impression that the ‘crew’ of the SS flew from LAX to La Paz and then took a chartered plane to Cabo. Had you been with the Kleins in La Paz prior to the arrival of the others?”
Did the entire crew take the Shooting Star from La Paz to Cabo, contrary to earlier reports?
   LO: The group flew from LAX to LaPaz to board the boat and went to Cabo and then on to Guerreo Nigro [sic] and then [they were] lost at sea. I was on the LaPaz to Cabo leg of the boat trip. Mr. Caspers and his group flew to Cabo and I left from Cabo to come home – just dumb luck for me. Tragically, I tried to get others to go home with me so I wouldn't appear a lone ingrate, but everyone wanted to stay on not knowing how long it would take to motor back to So Cal – what I understand to be against the currents and rough waters.

Young Tom Fuentes
   DtB: “I’ve read that Ron Caspers’ executive aide, Tom Fuentes, was supposed to join the others for the trip (from Cabo), but did not ultimately do so. Is that correct? Was he among those who flew down? Why did he not join the others as first planned?”

   LO: Mr. Fuentes did not accept the invite to go to Mexico. He is/was not a boat type guy*, nor a guy that would want to be with twelve other guys in tight quarters. If he went on a boat, it would have to be a first class yacht. The shooting Star was a working class boat that could be used to go fishing off the back.
   Generally, the boat owner [Fred Harber] was a cautious seaman and would have retraced his route down to Mexico [months earlier?] which would have been to hug the coastline. Caspers was an expert yachtsman. It is speculated that as the trip dragged on, many of the guys were restless. In response to the restlessness, Caspers may have convinced them to take a shorter route home by going out to Cedros Island and then straight into Dana Point. When they did that, they were caught in a storm and lost. No bodies were ever found, but parts of the boat were – including the Boston Whaler dingy that could have been used for a life raft. However, it is pitch dark in the night and in heavy seas and probably never got launched from its perch which required a winch to launch.
   As I mentioned, many speculate about wide [wild?] tales of murder and sabotage, but it was just a case of a small, ill equipped boat in heavy seas in the dark of night. [END]
Tim Klein on the Shooting Star in La Paz
     I’m still a bit unclear about one thing. Who exactly was on the Shooting Star for the La Paz-to-Cabo “leg” of the trip? Generally, it sounds as though LO is saying that “everyone” was on the boat, starting in La Paz. But then LO says that “Mr. Caspers and his group flew to Cabo.” (Earlier reports stated that the group took a chartered flight from La Paz to Cabo.) I find this a bit confusing. Are others confused by this?
     LO seems to be saying that, in Cabo, the rest of the group simply didn’t realize how rough the trip "motoring" north (on the SS) would be, and so they did not join him in bailing on the trip. LO seems to be suggesting that, after the first leg, he had had enough, and so he bailed. In doing so, he felt like an “ingrate.”
     LO seems to say that Fuentes never made it to Mexico at all: “Mr. Fuentes did not accept the invite to go to Mexico.” His further remarks about Fuentes are amusing.
     Finally, LO says that Mr. Fuentes is not the sort to want to be "with twelve other guys in tight quarters." I only count 11 other guys. Ten were lost, and then there's LO, who bailed at Cabo. Who’s number 12?
     I’ve emailed LO for clarification.
     I think that LO makes a good case for the difficulty of launching the Boston Whaler during the dark of night in rough seas. I was unaware of the difficulty with the winch. But why didn’t the crew don their life vests? As I understand it, the vests were found among the floating debris, unused, some torn.


*Fuentes is known for his love of the Balboa Bay Club, but, while there, he seems only to embark cigar smokings and Scotch sippings, not yachts.

Tom Fuentes, 1976

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