Monday, May 20, 2013

Goodbye Mexico

The past three weeks in La Paz has been just enough time to make repairs, prep the boat, provision, and say goodbye to a town we now know and love and to many of the friends who will carry on this cruisers’ life in Mexico and beyond.

There were a few tense and desperate feeling days, trying to figure out the best course of action for getting a working transmission for Solar Wind by the time we planned to leave for Hawaii. At first there seemed several possibilities, none of which were easy, straight forward or guaranteed to work. A brand new BMW engine was for sale here in La Paz. We had checked it out before at a swap meet and were interested in perhaps owning it for spare part or a total re-power back in Seattle some day. The price had gone up since the swap meet, but still we made an offer and checked into shipping through emails with the owner who lived out of town. Meanwhile, we searched the internet for local sources of our “fairly common” Hurth 150r transmission. Emailing with distributors in Cabo (that would be easy to receive) and Florida (not so easy) we learned more details about the numbers associated with our particular 150r and about the importance of the gear ratio and matching it to the engine on one side and the prop on the other.

Marcus's expert packing label on the tranny that cleared customs.
His wrapping job was only outdone by his verbal ability to talk his way
through with a minimal import tariff.
 In the end, “Norm in parts” at Marine Equipment Resource, 2 miles from our marina in Seattle was the one that could do the best in matching what we needed. We felt it would be safer (and cheaper) to have our Seattle friend, Marcus, who was flying down to crew with us to Hawaii bring the new transmission. We had heard too many stories of shipped parts being held in Mexican customs in Guadalajara for weeks while they decide how much import tax you owe. At the same time that Marcus picked up and packed the little transmission (think 50lb toaster), we did give UPS a try and had Norm mail us another set of thrust washers and disks with the hope that we could get a knowledgeable La Paz mechanic to rebuild the one Lanham had unsuccessfully rebuilt 150 hours ago. He sent most of the parts we needed and they arrived in 5 days, costing $150 in import tax for a 3 lb envelope – ouch!

So we were chasing after the idea of rebuilding the perfectly sized transmission we have been using, and having it installed, tested and ready to go when Marcus arrived. And hanging our last hopes on the replacement that he would be carrying, which we could install in about 4 hours, keeping on the “schedule” for departure to Hawaii. Remember, that’s the schedule that means nothing, just writings in the sand.

We had heard on the morning net of the best-known local mechanic, by the name of Terry Carpenter. Lanham had visited his “yard” when he was repairing the transmission on round one. 

This time, we took our “basket case” transmission, along with our new parts, and grew to trust and appreciate this character – brilliant diesel mechanic, junkyard tender, curmudgeon, and passionate liberal ex-pat. We spent several hours watching him root around his yard and teach us his craft, visit with his Mexican Catholic wife, who blessed each of us and the new transmission. 

Terry Carpenter's shop has to be seen 
to be believed. Even more amazing is his ability to find anything therein. He turned out to be a great teacher, and a skilled and committed ally in our mission to sail away.

We installed it 3 days before Marcus arrived, went out to run it forward, backward and around in circles! So we are off and running, carrying a spare transmission in our very full bilge! Hooray!

While we ran around town buying specialized boat goodies (zincs, pump valves, muriatic acid, etc, etc, and stocking up on food, food, food we learned why most people choose to take the months of June – Sept up north in the cooler climes. It is getting HOT in La Paz. Averaging 95 with spikes to 110 degrees, we soon appreciated the shades and awnings on our boat at the dock. The mosquitoes have also arrived in the stillness of the evenings, so thank goodness for the screens on our hatches. Everybody who is planning to stay any time on their boat was busy devising shade screens, putting in window air-conditioners, and getting their “work” done before noon. 

Thanks Swag!
Our good buddy Swagman, had his truck returned to La Paz, even before he returned and had the keys delivered to us! So we had the luxury of driving to the big box stores for provisioning and carrying things back to the boat.

 Melinda had several days of prep cooking, portioning, freezing, and vacuum packing – once again we will eat well – lots of main meats and produce – to be supplemented by all the fresh fish we plan to catch. And in the event that they passage takes more than 3 weeks, we have enough canned goods for another 3 at least. One idea is that we will have a jump on provisioning in Hawaii, where things will be more expensive.

To add a little excitement, I gave my hand a nasty chop along with the garlic. Cutting the flap of skin between thumb and forefinger was a good reminder that most accidents happen in the home. Lanham was off in another marina helping friends put in an A/C (building up karma). I grabbed a paper towel and wishfully thought about just applying a butterfly bandage, and then thought it was probably deep enough and would heal better with a stitch or two. Darn. 

Our dock neighbors helped me call a doctor, the very kind English speaking Dr. Enrique Tuchmann, and he said he’d wait for me at his office. Lanham and Swagman in his truck roared up and got me to town, Dr. Tuchmann stitched me up (3 under layer and 6 outside stitches). He stayed open during his 1-4 pm siesta, and we were only too happy to pay his reasonable fee of $80.

Lanham will cut the stitches out in a week, I have a round of antibiotics, and it is not slowing me down much. I was lucky – no blood vessel and no ligament involved. Phew! Also, way easier to deal with here in town than a few days out at sea. Wake up, and get your fingers out of the way!

Marcus arrives at the dock in Marina Palmira

Marcus arrived and accomplished the momentous task of talking Mexican customs officials out of charging $2,000 import tariff or keeping the tranny in officialdom for the “captain” to pick up. He played the lowly courier, saying it wasn’t his boat, he had no money, and he’d be in “trouble” with his captain if he didn’t deliver the part. They took pity on him or maybe he waited them out through siesta, but he eventually got through with a $60 charge. We met him at the La Paz bus station, after the 3-hour trip from Jose del Cabo airport. 

Including new "Solar Wind" crew garb -- Thank you Carol!

We got to Solar Wind, unwrapped all the goodies he carried for us, and headed out for a farewell dinner with friends. It was a delicious meal, lovely send off, and great last evening in La Paz.

Welcome to Marcus, and farewell to the La Paz gang.
They swear they want to try to get to Sequim
for our arrival in mid to late July!

Marcus making himself comfortable in
his new mini quarter berth

This morning we are going over boat systems as we drink good Seattle coffee. We plan (oh, yea, we don’t make plans) to tour Marcus on a short circuit through La Paz, and then head out for a leisurely 4 day trip to Cabo. 

Doing some crew orientation -- with our morning coffee

We will stay at the San Jose del Cabo marina, get our paperwork together, go to Immigracion before they open at 8 am on Friday, May 24th. We have several nice anchorages in mind for the next 4 days, and will also take the opportunity to scrub the bottom, replace the zincs and swim in warm Mexican water a few more times.

We will try to send a post from Jose del Cabo, and while we are there we will be chatting with family by phone, and feeling the proud parental flush as we congratulate our elder daughter:

    Here’s to you, Anna Devin Deal!

Congratulations on your Graduation from 
Boston College Law!
We are so happy for your success and accomplishments,
and will party with you in Seattle, after the Bar!
Love you, Mom and Dad

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