#30—Acapulco: Boat Repairs and Lessons in International Shopping
Waiting Out the Surge in Ixtapa
After returning to Ixtapa on Thursday, May 11th we had hoped to depart for Acapulco on Friday, May 12th or Saturday the 13th. However, a strong surge combined with a shallow sand bar at the entrance to Marina Ixtapa created hazardous conditions that prevented us from leaving. The marina flew the red flag from their flag mast to broadcast their warning, and marina personnel stopped by several times during both days to discourage us from making an exit attempt.
When conditions improved Sunday evening we left under cover of darkness at 23:00 and made a bathtub calm passage to Acapulco, arriving on Monday, May 15th. As we approached Boca Chica, the small entrance to Acapulco Bay, between the peninsula and Isla de la Roqueta, our thermometer indicated that the temperature had reached 110º F on deck, while the water temperature was 83º. Difficult to remember when we were sailing in Alaska, yearning for warm weather.
New Bottom Paint, and Caveat Emptor—Tuesday May 16 through Thursday, May 18
Over the next several days we moored at Club de Yates Marina, Acapulco's yacht club located on the western shores of Acapulco Bay, just north of Boca Chica. This beautiful marina looks north and east to the steep mountains sweeping around Acapulco Bay. The hills and mountains provide panoramic scenery for Acapulco's five million inhabitants.
We planned to use the boat yard facilities in Acapulco to rework the bottom paint on Andanté, which had worn through at the waterline and on the keel. Although we had attempted to schedule our haul out in advance, we had to wait three days until the boat yard Travel Lift crew could get to us. They finally hauled the boat onto its land-based cradle on Thursday, May 18th, and workers sanded off the old ablative paint on Friday and Saturday.
While work progressed on Andanté's hull, I decided to replace the video camera that had been stolen out of my locked duffel while it transited Mexico City's airport baggage system. I took a taxi tour of Acapulco to inventory video cameras at the local Costco and Sam's Club.
Sam's Club had a camera that I didn't know existed—one that records in digital, but also plays older Hi8 videotapes. I had been thinking about upgrading to digital, but all of my previous tapes were recorded in Hi8. This camera would bridge old technology with new. Perfect.
Before I made the buy, however, I decided to visit a local Sony dealer—a decision that turned out to be an expensive and time-consuming mistake. The Sony dealer was a very small store located somewhat off the beaten track in the city's central area. I informed the sales people about the video camera at Sam's—digital record with Hi8 compatibility—and attempted to communicate in very limited Spanish that I wanted a camera with this compatibility. The salespeople eagerly showed me a camera that they said did the same thing, but was better, and newer. "Mas majore," they implored. I bought their video camera.
Within the comfort of my air conditioned hotel room, with new video camera, accessories, and manual in hand, I excitedly read the manual and inspected the camera. After a thorough review, I discovered, to my disappointment, that the 'digital' video camera sold me, was not digital, but a regular Hi8 camera. The manual that they stuffed into the previously-opened box was for a different model of camera than what I purchased—e.g. manual and camera didn't match. And, some of the camera's accessories were not included. I returned to the store the next day and asked for my money back, which started an epic saga.
The sales people, not wanting to take the camera back, tried to switch me to another video camera model (the only other Sony video camera that they had in the store). I said 'no,' I wanted a refund. Then they said, "You have to return tomorrow to talk with another person about the refund."
I returned the next day. A new sales person tried again to switch me to the remaining Sony video camera. I said, 'no,' I want a refund. (All of this transpiring in broken Spanish and broken English.) They said, "You have to return in 1/2 an hour, because the person who can authorize the refund isn't here."
Half an hour later they said, "You have to come back tomorrow, because the bank is closed." Are you getting the trend here? By this time I realized that I was not going to get my money back.
I returned the next day, and met with the woman who owns the little store. I explained the situation to her in limited Spanish, and within 60-seconds she was yelling at me. She was not stern. She was not aggrevated. She was screaming mad. You would have thought that I had tried to take a fistful of cash out of her register. But I didn't understand her tirades, which made her even angrier. After all, what fun is it to yell at someone if they don't understand you?
Apparently none, because she turned to my cab driver—the one whom I had employed for every trip back to the Sony store for the previous two days, because he was a very nice man who spoke reasonably good English—and started in on him. He, unlike me, wasn't guilty of being a consumer. But he had the unfortunate disadvantage of understanding her. I watched the body language. She screamed and gesticulated, narrowly missing his head with a bullet-fast, arms-length swing. He tried to defend me ... with logic and reason. But she would have none of that. She redoubled her intensity and lashed into him so vehemently that I saw his body slump and wilt as a barrage of her anger exploded over him.
I thought I'd have a go at her. Maybe if the two of us went at her from different angles, we could make some headway—kind of like a flanking strategy. I interrupted her (this was no easy task) to explain that the camera did not have digital record capability. "Si," she said, and pointed to the buttons on the camera's face. Oops. Her definition of 'digital' meant that the camera had tiny little push buttons instead of knobs.
OK, if logic didn't work, maybe she would respond to more pressure: I explained that if she didn't want to give me a refund, I would go to the police. She shrugged her shoulders, and said something that sounded like "get lost.'' In reality she probably said "go ahead, the police chief is my cousin's first nephew."
Ricardo, my faithful taxi driver, who had become outraged by her resistance and anger, immediately drove me to the equivalent of the Federal Consumer Protection Agency. After a short period of time we met with a young attorney, who called the woman proprietor on the phone and explained that Mexican Federal law enables someone to return a product for a full refund within five days. After five days, it's a full refund plus interest.
She responded that, possibly, she might be able to find some money. After hanging up, the attorney filled out a complaint form, which I signed. The complaint form forced her to appear at the Consumer Protection Agency office at 14:30 in the afternoon of May 30th. Justice would be had! Except for the fact that I was scheduled to be in Central America on May 30th.
But no problem. I wrote a letter authorizing my taxi driver Ricardo to act on my behalf. Ricardo said he didn't want me to think that everyone in Mexico was a crook, and he volunteered to show up on my behalf.
Ricardo, and another acquaintance I had met from the US who was staying at the marina, along with a Mexican friend of hers, arrived at 14:30 on May 30th. The verdict: I bought the camera, and I own it.
I donated my second, new, non-digital video camera to Ricardo.
In the meantime, I returned to Sam's Club to purchase the camera that I should have purchased in the first place, had I not been such a clever, discriminating shopper. Yes. It's true. I am a clever shopper. Do you know anyone else who buys two video cameras, when you only need one? Am I a victim? Absolutely! But only a victim of my own creative shopping techniques. Caveat emptor.
Getting to the Bottom of the Bottom Paint—May 19th through the 24th
Remember the important topic—the new bottom paint? Friday, Saturday, and Sunday a crew sanded down the one year old (supposed to last for three) ablative paint from the hull. It was a very messy job. Our painter said he could apply the primer barrier coat on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21st, but rain preempted the project until Monday, May 22nd. Both the barrier coat and the Trinidad bottom paint were applied on Monday, and we scheduled to splash Andanté back into the water on Tuesday morning, May 23rd at 9:00.
But that was before Tuesday morning at 9:00, when the yard workers were given instructions to paint the Travel Lift—used to haul out and splash all of the boats in the yard. We waited until the new paint on the Travel Lift dried Tuesday afternoon. But then the schedule couldn't accommodate us until Wednesday.
Wednesday morning, May 24th, they slipped the huge slings around Andanté's hull. The Travel Lift's engine roared as Andanté slowly rose off of her ground-based steel cradle. Triumphant! Until we noticed water leaking out of the aft, top section of the keel. Hmmm. Where was that coming from?
Upon closer inspection, I mean after chiseling the keel apart, we discovered water leaking out of a vertical seam that bisected the back of the keel. Hammer and chisel unveiled a small cavity where the keel connects to the hull. We set Andanté down back down on the cradle and decided to fix the problem then, with the convenience of a Fiberglas specialist close at hand.
Work on the fiberglass repair started as soon as Andanté dropped off her slings. By the next day she had a new fiberglass skin inside and out, around the base of the keel.
Thursday evening, May 25th, we departed. Our weather window was slowly shutting—we wanted to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec by June 15th, the official start of the hurricane season in Southern Mexico.
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