When in Guaymas...

Trip Start Dec 01, 2010
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Flag of Mexico  , Northern Mexico,
Monday, January 23, 2012

You could hear the whistle and howl of the winds entering the caldera from miles away. All around us red rock spires reach straight up through thick green chaparral and cactus. It was about 11:00 pm when the wind woke me and I usually enjoy these warm desert winds, but not tonight. It took another ten minutes for the winds to start slapping halyards in the boat yard and I didn't think we were ready for this.

I needed to install a new radar dome as the old one had just turned once too many times and had ground to a halt. The install would need me to either thread a one-inch thick cable through the mast, deck, and cabin, or pull the mast off the boat with a crane. The yard rumor was that I could have both masts removed for about $150, completely reasonable, so we decided to do it. We drove the motor home over to the crane yard and in my best hand-waving Spanglish I made my request for a crane and crew to come to the yard at their first opportunity and remove my boat masts. The young man in dirty Levis, oversized work boots, and a John Deer T-shirt listened to all of this and carefully chose his words... "No."

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Now, my experience with Mexicans is that they are almost always anxious to help and downright eager to take money from me so I wasn't really sure if he didn't understand my words or maybe he just didn't want to do the job today. So, I tried again with Spanish words that basically said, "I'll give you money to work on my sailboat masts." By now a few more guys had crawled out from under the trucks and equipment and when I finished speaking they all laughed. The guy I was speaking to said something to them and they all laughed again. Then he turned to me and said "No." I think it was in English this time.

I drove away confused and disappointed. I went back to the boat and spent some time looking up more Spanish words. I asked the boat yard guys how to ask for the job I needed. A few days later I hopped on my trusty folding bike, that looks like it's meant for a 12 year old and headed off to the Crane yard with several new Spanish words in my arsenal. I wobbled over the gravel in the yard and was greeted by older man in a huge cowboy hat at the front door of the partially-white-washed concrete office. I started with, "Good day, I have a boat . . .", he put his hand up to stop me and without a word, he walked over to his truck, got in, started it up and began to pull away. When he got to the front gate of the yard, the truck stopped and the passenger door swung open. Seeing this as an invitation, I rushed the truck, threw my bike in the back, and climbed in. 

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I was relieved he knew where to go and still without speaking a word we pulled into the boat yard and I pointed out Ashika. An hour later and after a lot more hand-waving and drawing in the dirt, we had made a deal. He gave me his card and told me to call when I had completed the preparations (I think). I called two days later and he scheduled the job for "manana" (I think). What us gringos learn about "manana" is that it doesn't always mean "tomorrow," but it always means "not today."

That afternoon I loosened up all the rigging holding up the two masts in order to make a quick job of releasing the masts once the crane was holding them up. I pulled all the electrical connections from within the boat and completely disconnected one of the twin backstays that was used for the SSB antenna and anchors the mast from the back. I was ready and Lauri was nervous. I assured her the masts wouldn't fall down that night.

As I awoke to the screaming winds, Lauri was already sitting up in bed. Before I could say, "Oh shit, the masts are too loose for a storm!" Lauri ask me if everything was going to be okay. Of course I assured her we had no problem; what else could I do? When the wind blasts hit our halyards, which were normally tied off, they slapped loudly against the masts. I watched and listened but the masts hardly moved in the screaming wind. I eventually fell asleep and was very glad to see the masts still standing in the morning light. Once again life showed me that if you can't be smart, its good to be lucky.

The crane came as planned and after I pulled a, "no comprendo" on the issue of who was to go up the mast to tie a lifting harness, everything went as planned. The work was hard but soon the two mast lay on the ground in a tangle of wires and rope. Looking at the mess I couldn't help ask myself "what have I done?".

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The next day I made a quick run to the paint store. Here paint is "pintura" and stripper is "pintura removador." Its like Steve Martin said about the French, these Mexicans have a different word for everything! What I needed this day was tack cloths for Lauri to clean up teak dust. As usual, I tried to schmooze the language a bit: I know dust or powder is "pavo" but I had no idea about cloth so I tried just cleaning up the dust on the counter with my t-shirt.

The paint store is pretty large but you only get to go about three feet into the store where you are stopped at a small counter; about as wide as the door. The young lady there knows us by now and has been very tolerant about our lack of Spanish and strange pantomimes. Knowing I was trying to ask for something and that I was not just cleaning her counter, she brought out her lap top computer, and brought up an internet application to translate English to Spanish and Spanish to English. She then gestured for me to type what I needed.

I typed "tack cloth" and the computer translated it to "tele de povo" (I think). The nice lady told me "no, she did not have those" (I think). I retyped "tele de povo" into the computer and it translated it to "dust cloth." I knew we were not really communicating so I pulled out some sand paper that was on the counter and pretended to sand the counter; surely this would be obvious . . . I saw no joy in her eyes until finally she whirled around the computer and frantically began to type. She then hit the translation button and out came, "do you want a treated cloth used for picking up dust prior to painting?" She looked delighted and I shouted, "Si, Si!" (yes, that's exactly what I want!). Clearly she too felt the joy of having broken down the barriers that separate our peoples. With her beaming smile she then began enthusiastically typing again and I eagerly awaited the long process to learn her next response. Finally, she turned the computer around so I could read the translation. It said, "No, we don't carry those."

Did I mention that "No" means "No" in both English and Spanish?

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Living here in Mexico certainly has it problems. Most of the problems are due to our lack of language skills but the availability of goods is another problem. You can also spend as much to live here as in the States, but the cost of living here is a choice. We have found that if you replicate your life in the States it can cost almost as much to live here as in the States. Staying at the modern marinas; shopping at Sam's Club, and Walmart; eating at the fine [Gringo] restaurants or Mc Donalds, can be very expensive.

It can be both economical and rewarding to live like a Mexican. Shopping at Mexican markets requires letting go of some of your American habits and replacing them with the local way of eating; tortillas instead of bread, etc. Some things are very expensive here (like cheese) but a lot of things are really cheep (like beer, meat, and vegetables).

We were able to purchase three large rib-eye steaks for 80 pesos (less than $6 US) which fed us for two meals. We bought a pack of six pork chops for 20 pesos ($1.75 US). We buy half a kilo of fresh-caught shrimp at the beach-side stand for 60 pesos (approx. $5 US) and eat like royals. Machaca burritos at our street corner stand can be had for 5 pesos (about 35 cents) each. We make a meal of them and a drink for around three dollars and sit on bar stools in the dirt and at a plywood bar, not fancy but oh so good.

We often miss the conveniences, abundance and the cleanliness (and Lauri says don't forget the washer and dryer) the States have to offer, but there is a richness found in Mexico that we covet and so when in Mexico, live like a Mexican.

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