No Haul Out in Guatemala…..

Dear F&F,
February 25, 2009

We were not too surprised to hear from Ziggy the mechanic that the ship yard would not be ready to haul us out on Tuesday. But when we got another \”manana\” story this morning we decided to go there & see what was the hold up. Carmina drove us the 10 minutes to the area where the haul out yard is. Scott had been there on Monday with Ziggy & saw the big shrimp boat that was in what is called \”the ways\”. Imagine a cement ramp with cement side wall. There are railroad tracks on each edge of the cement ramp. Divers have to go underwater to brace the boat with supports. The supports are either wood, metal and sometimes rubber tires depending on the type of boat. In our case, probably a combination of wood & tires. Then the whole contraption is winched up along the railroad tracks until the boat is out of the water. In this shipyard there can only be 1 boat out of the water at a time. So until the rust-bucket shrimp boat is finished & put back in the water, it is not possible for us to be hauled out. When Scott saw the boat Monday it looked like just the rudder needed to be bolted on. He heard one worker say that it would be 4-5 days. But when he & Ziggy asked Vladimir the yard manager they were told 1-2 days. Today was day 2, that is why we went there to make sure we aren\’t on indefinite \”manana time\”.

Vladimir was very polite & pulled up chairs for Carmina, Scott & I at a big desk. It is 10:30 a.m. Carmina translates all our questions into Spanish. We would like information about the crossing the sandbar to enter the lagoon. Vladimir at first indicates that if we come at high tide the waves are very gentle so it is no problem. A minute later he describes that the waves are big enough to surf and that the passage can be very dangerous. I raise an eyebrow & look at Scott. We don\’t know what to make of this conflicting information & Carmina is unable to get him to clarify.

We know due to the sandbar we can only cross at high tide. We have a print out of the tide table & show him that the high tides for the next several days are pretty late in the day. We want to find out how late the workers will stay to haul us out. He says, yes they will work late. As he studies the tide graph, he comments that he wishes that the high tide were a little higher than the predicted 5 feet. This is like wishing the sun would hang in the sky a few minutes longer. Again, Scott & I look at each other & do not know what is going on. Something is odd.

What we really want to know is, \”How much longer until the shrimp boat is finished & you can take us out?\” He tells us he is going to have a meeting with the manager of the job at 2:00 pm today to find out the status. He proposes that their crew can work 24 hours a day to accelerate the job. He says they can put lights on & work at night. This is nonsense & we know it. We don\’t know why he is telling us this b.s. He suggests we return at 2:00 pm with Ziggy the mechanic to have further discussion.

We drive by the lagoon entry & look at the waves. We ask a fisherman how much he would charge to take us out in his panga for a test run of crossing the sandbar at high tide. Today high tide is about 3:20 pm. We can check it out after the 2:00 pm meeting.

We drive back to \”Beach House\” & I make sandwiches. Scott & I both have bad gut feelings about the haul out yard. Something is fishy & we aren\’t being told the whole story. We decide perhaps we should consider Plan B, which is to leave here & limp down the coast on 1 engine. It is 120 miles to El Salvador, at 5 knots it will take us about 24 hours. There is also a sandbar to cross there. We have to call the marina as we approach & they will tell us when it is safe to cross (also high tide) & send a panga to guide us in. We are told the entry is 1000 feet wide. The Guatemala entry was very narrow, which is part of the danger.

Next to information about Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, in the margin of our cruising guide book, I had written a note from a meeting with a boating friend who was down here a few years ago \”Don\’t go. Many boats swamped.\” Oy veh. I know timing is everything. We have talked to many boats that have crossed this bar without too much excitement.

There are 2 places that have haul out capability in El Salvador. Scott calls Murray Barrett who he spoke with last week when we discovered our breakdown. He is still with his sick mother in Canada. He owns Island Marine which provides mechanical service in Bahia del Sol. He explains the \”careening\” process in more detail & upon further consideration, Scott thinks that this may be the way to go.

Barillas is the other option. It is 20 miles past Bahia del Sol and has a railroad haul out like here. The big question is when will they be able to take us out? Do they also have a boat stuck in the ways for 5 months? Carmina calls the haul out yard in Barillas. The manager is not in & no one else is there to answer questions. Scott composes an email & Carmina translates it into Spanish. We send both the English & Spanish email & have to wait & hope for a reply.

At 2:00 pm we drive back to the ship yard here to see if Vladimir can give us more information. He seems busy & says we should wait for Ziggy to arrive to have our meeting. Carmina, Scott & I walk out by the shrimp boat. We see an enormous hole in the back. This was not there when Scott & Ziggy saw it Monday. Obviously A LOT more work needs to be done on this boat. We had Carmina ask one yard worker how long the boat has been there. Answer: 5 months! (Scott had been told \”less than a week\” when he first met Vladimir). Another worker said he has been on the job 3 months. When we asked another worker how much longer he expected until the boat was finished he answered: \”Two more weeks if everything goes well\”. Oy veh. When Ziggy did not arrive by 2:20 pm for the meeting, Carmina called him on his cell. He said he misunderstood, he is at his own shop by our marina. We tell him not to bother coming, we cannot wait for this yard indefinitely.

We stop at Ziggy\’s shop on our return to the marina & ask him to please have his mechanic re-secure our engine for our trip down to El Salvador. It had to be unbolted & hoisted out of the way to diagnose the transmission problem. We also need them to bring the new transmission from their shop to our boat. We need to pay Ziggy something for his mechanics\’ time. Scott pays our marina bill. Carmina calls the agent we used to check in, Miguel Oscar, requesting that he come & pick up our passports & request our Zarpe (international exit document). We want to leave by noon tomorrow, Thursday. This exercise in futility must come to an end. Carmina & I drive to the gas station & fill four of our 5 gallon jugs with diesel so we have plenty of fuel for the trip.

It is 7:00 pm now. The engine has been secured. The new transmission is lying on plastic under our cockpit table. Agent Miguel Oscar just left after delivering our exit documents & passports stamped with tomorrow\’s date. In the morning we will hose off as much of the sugar cane ash as we can. We plan to shove off before the prevailing wind comes up & pins us to the dock. We cannot make a right turn from a standstill or slow speed with the port engine/transmission offline. We are tied up on the left side of the boat & need to turn right to get out of here. We will either get a few guys to help push us off, or maybe even hire a panga to tow us off.

Puerto Quetzal turned out to be a major disappointment. We are really disgusted at the Iztapa Lagoon haul out manager. Just how long was he going to string us along? Time to stop sitting around waiting for nothing. Carmina was happy to have us stop with our boat in her country. That was the only good part of this detour. We thank her profusely for holding our hand through this ordeal. In the morning we will hug her goodbye & see her after our repair when she will come & meet us in El Salvador. We have flight reservations from Guatemala City to Los Angeles in mid March. Miles to go & lots to accomplish between now & then. Part of the adventure. Not the most fun part. But we are safe & Lord willing, the starboard transmission will get us to El Salvador. Onward!

Scott & Cindy
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