Am I the only one down here with the mañana attitude? You know, the old saw about how in Mexico mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow, it just means not today. Here I am, ready for things to take awhile and then THIS happens.
Started out innocently enough. During the morning cruisers’ net, they have a section called “local assistance” where cruisers can call in to get recommendations about services , etc. I called and asked for recommendations for someone who could put new bearings and seals in my transmission and also for a machine shop to fabricate an emergency substitute for my Shaft Saver. Right after the net, Bill from s/v Wandering Puffin got back to me with a recommendation for a guy to do the transmission work. He said that Terry, an expat from the States, has been down here in La Paz for something like 11 years and does very good work having once been a marine engineer working for some big outfit in the States.
I gave Terry a call, told him my problem and was prepared to have to haul the tranny to his shop and wait awhile until he had time to fix it. But NOOOOOOOOO… Within 30 minutes, Terry was here at the boat to get the transmission. While he was here he asked me a few questions to get an idea of why I thought the tranny needed new bearings. I told him about the vibrations that were most evident at low RPMs. Then he wanted to see something on the engine so I had him jump down into the engine compartment to take a look. He was down there poking around when he said, “Your vibration isn’t because of the tranny, it’s because you’re about to lose your prop. It’s loose.” He climbed out and I climbed down. He had me turn the propshaft and then suddenly stop it. Sure enough, I could feel a clunk that said that something on the shaft didn’t quit turning at exactly the moment that I stopped the shaft.
I climbed out and he told me I needed to find out why the thing was loose. He had some worst case scenarios but said the first thing to do was to remove the nut and pull the prop. Then he’d be able to look at the parts and figure out what was going on. Great. Looks like we’ll need to haul out. But Terry vetoed that idea. he said that haul-outs in La Paz have just gotten crazy expensive and I should just do it in the water. He said that, if I didn’t want to do it myself (I didn’t), I should just get hold of a diver. I asked if he knew any divers he could recommend. He mentioned a couple possibilities but settled on Henry The Diver. A guy that was working on one of the other boats nearby had Henry’s card, so Terry gave him a call. After explaining the situation, he hung up and said that Henry would come down and take a look. He then departed with my transmission.
Couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes later that a short friendly-looking Mexican came walking down the dock with his nephew and a bunch of equipment. Sure enough, it was Henry and he was ready to go to work. He and his nephew got things set up and Henry dove in. Within about 20 minutes, the prop, the nut, and the old zinc were laying on the dock. He said that the shaft looked good. he couldn’t see any problems other than the prop nut was so loose that just turning the allen-head bolt that holds the zinc on was enough to spin the nut off.
I still wanted Terry to take a look so I wasn’t sure when to have Henry come back to put things back together. He said that he’d stop by in the morning before he went to another job at Marina de La Paz. If I was ready then, he’d re-install it, otherwise, he’d come back when I was ready. he also said to wait and pay him when the whole job was complete. With that, he loaded up his stuff and headed out.
After Henry was gone, I decided that I’d try to find Terry’s shop and take the prop and such to him for analysis. I was just starting to put the stuff in a bag when, who should wander down the dock carrying a bright red Westerbeke transmission? That’s right, it was Terry. He said that he couldn’t find anything wrong with the transmission other than the seal had not been installed properly and there was a loose nut on one of the shafts. He tightened everything up, reinstalled the seal properly and even gave the case a coat of red paint. I showed him the prop, the nut, and the key and he couldn’t really see anything wrong. He said that it looked like the nut had just come loose. It’s supposed to have a cotter key to keep it from turning but there was no cotter key evident. Which would certainly explain things. I have no idea when it disappeared but, if you’ll remember, I noticed the nut loosening up when we were at Avalon on Catalina Island in early November. Anyway, he gave me some reinstallation tips and said he was pretty sure that tightening things up would take care of my vibration. I thanked him and asked him how much I owed. He said that since all he did was take things apart and then put them back together, how about $200 (pesos). That’s about $16USD. Yeah, I think that’ll be fine.
So here I am, ready to relax and wait around for at least a few days to get things done, and now it’s 11:00 AM, about 2-1/2 hours after I first called for a recommendation, and pretty much everything’s done. And I hadn’t even had breakfast yet!
Tomorrow, I fully expect to see Henry between 8:00 and 8:30. I’d bet that by 9:30 my prop will be firmly back in place. I asked Henry about how much this was going to cost and he said Maybe 400 or 450 pesos. “Is all right?” Let’s see, that’s between $32 and $36 USD for two dives and the extraction and replacement of my prop. I paid a schlock diver in Avalon $110 USD just to dive once and tighten the nut, which he obviously didn’t do a very good job of. So, yes, Henry, I think that’ll be just fine.
I’m feeling pretty good about this whole transmission thing right about now. It could have been SO much worse in any number of ways, not the least of which would have been if the prop had dropped off 30 miles from land out along the western Baja coast somewhere where there’d be no hope of recovering it. Plus I’ve been hearing horror stories from other boaters about pulling into the yard for one thing and then finding out a whole bunch of other stuff is wrong and leaving the yard a whole lot poorer than they’d anticipated.
So, my hat’s off to a couple of excellent folks who just don’t seem to know the meaning of the word Mañana.