Sunday, we met with the Capitania del Puerto to make sure we were on the up and up (along with the drug sniffing dog, two heavily armed marines and a few other folks who I wasn’t sure what their role was. So be it.
Notice those two fine strapping lads on the left. They muct have been on thier way to the NRA hunter Safety Class an stopped by. Also, the second guy from the right obiously is a dog lover because he brought his pooch aboard. When yo arrive in Mexico, you get noticed. Within 15 minutes of being tied up at the dock, we met “Ronnie” who let us know that the Capitania del Peuerto would be stopping by. We got our preliminary paperwork checked and the dog did a sniff around Bones and they were off. Because it was Sunday, we couldn’t do the rest until Monday when all of the offices would be open.
So, this morning, Monday, we were going to into wherever we were going to into, to get our Mexican Zarpe, and do the customs and immigration thing. We met Enrique who runs Marina Chiapas. Enrique made some calls and said “Nope. Not today. They won’t be ready. We’ll go tomorrow at 9:00” OK. I’ve never had customs and immigration work that way, but cool.
In fact, that is one important distinction between traveling by air and traveling by boat. Via air, they get you before you have a chance to get out of he rooms with no doorknobs. By boat, once you arrive, you get a cab, maybe the next day or so, and drive into town to find them. I could have brought two whole liters of booze into their country and they wouldn’t know it. I might have even run with scissors down the dock – how would they know? Oh well.
Quick note. Marina Chiapas is first class. Well done, well executed. It is only 3 years old. Four years ago, it was a field. Now it has first class docks, NICE showers, an excellent restaurant and a boatyard with a 50 ton travel lift. All developed with private money, because the Mexican Yates wanted to have a place to bring their boats and they wanted it to be done right.
It is also only 3 years old.
And has a pretty nice restaurant, Baös:
With very nice food, too!
Back to changing gears. Or not being able to. As those of you who are loyal readers of this blog will no doubt recall, our shifter troubles started as we tried to tie up in Golfito. It didn’t work. The gear shifter was stuck in forward. So, we had a mechanic rebuild it. That warranty apparently was good only within the confines of Costa Rica. When we approached the dock in Nicaragua, it was stuck in forward again. But we were ready and had a plan.
When we got our comeuppance with the Chubasco squall, we took the shifter apart and disconnected the shift cable from the shifter. From now on, shifting the transmission was going to be mano a mano! Capitán would be boldly in the cockpit piloting Bones, and I would be his dutiful engineer in the bowels of the machinery space manually moving the shift linkage into the desired direction.
As we approached Chiapas, I went to my duty station and everything worked perfectly! Capitán called for ‘neutral’ and neutral it was. He called for ‘reverse’ and reverse happened. It was a team of beauty. I was beginning to mist up. In fact so much that my vision was clouding. Then I realized, that being below, in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity hovering over a diesel engine was causing me to projectile perspire. I wiped it away and helped with the dock lines. A beautiful tie up.
Today, Enrique asked us if we could move one dock over into a smaller slip, so that he would have room for 80 footers (did I mention this pace was first class? Did I mention it was maybe 40% full, with no 80 footers?), “sure”, Capitán told Enrique, but he also added the part about the transmission, and Enrique said that he would have someone come right over. Someone was actually someones. Three to be exact. They were to be our line handlers (where did I hear that before?) But they were there and they were ready.
So, the plan was, Capitán would be Capitán. I would be ‘Scotty’ the engineer, and the tres amigos would be the line handlers. What could possibly go wrong?
Never. Tempt. Fate.
We backed out of the slip flawlessly.Capitàn initiated a turn to get Bones pointed in the right direction. “Forward” came Capitán’s order. “Forward aye” was my response. I dutifully thrust the lever of the Borg Warner ‘Velvet Drive’ transmission into forward.
Capitán selected the Borg Warner Velvet Drive transmission over the Hurst transmission when he upgraded Bones’ power plant several years ago. He did this on the recommendation of a well respected marine engineer in San Francisco, who told him “Hurst units are fine for going out on the bay, or up and down the coast, but for your intentions, get the Borg Warner.” So Capitán did. He only gets the best.
“I said forward!” Capitán barked. “It is!” I confirmed. “The boat is not slowing!” he said. Yikes, a concrete abutment was rapidly closing in toward Bones stern. I hurriedly opened up a floorboard to reveal the propeller shaft. The engine was madly turning at about 2,500 RPMs (that’s way fast for a marine diesel), and the propeller shat apparently didn’t get the message. It was lollygagging along at (literally) 3 RPM. Yes, Three.
I tried shifting forward, neutral, reverse, and any combination. Our line handlers saw what was happening and ran toward the stern. In the end (no pun), 35,000 pounds of Bones was no match for, maybe, 500 pounds of line handlers. They valiantly tried to fend off, but to minor avail. We slowly made contact with the concrete structure that was built to endure the forces generated by a travel lift with a 50,000 pound payload in its slings. It was one of those moments that distort time. It could have taken 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 weeks. You just couldn’t tell.
This is a travel lift:
We stopped, and after about 10 seconds, the propeller shaft started acting like it should. We had forward propulsion. We made our way into the slip and tied up. Then Capitán announced “that hitting the stern was like an injury to my own body. I feel ill.” I totally understand. Muy Simpatico. Capitán has spent the last 26 years of his life knowing every sound, vibration, movement of Bones and can differentiate when it is not right. While the wound to bones was cosmetic, it was as if Capitán had let his trusty steed down.
After we were secured at the dock, we immediately went to work on trying to understand what happened, and more importantly why. OK, ‘velvet drive’ implied a hydraulic shifting action I queried Capitán. He confirmed. So, with the powerful Volvo turbocharged diesel engine at idle, I ran a series of test shifts to see what the relationship between the shift lever and the rotation of the propeller shaft was.
It turns out (no pun), that it looked like it took about 8 seconds from the movement of the shift lever until the propeller shaft was genuinely turning at proper RPMs. It could be that ‘velvet drive’ thingy. Perhaps I had been too hasty in disengaging/re-engaging the transmission when that concrete behemoth approached. We were not sure. One thing that was sure, is Capitán now wants to drain and refill the transmission to possibly reduce the chance of that happening in the future. As well as the new shift lever – that you can only get in the US.
What a day.
Oh yeah, here is a picture of a ‘squadron’ of baby manta rays going by next to the boat. Aren’t the creepy looking?