Back to Work – the Clock is Ticking

After 2 weeks of “holiday” in Switzerland, we returned to Milagros and had to fight bureaucracy again on the way there. And as soon as we had arrived, Milagros demanded immediate attention. Thanks to a new approach to project management, we were able to tick off many tasks from our to-do list in the first week. And we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the dunes.  

Our journey back to Mexico to Milagros took us via Madrid, Mexico City to Hermosillo. Relaxed, we boarded the plane to Madrid on the day of our departure. We had all the necessary certificates, documents and QR codes with us – or so we thought. When we were called to the information desk after landing in Madrid, we thought nothing of it. It was the same on the outbound flight: Iberia wanted to check the documents. The lady at the counter asked us for a booking or something similar that would confirm our departure from Mexico within the next 6 months. We looked at her with question marks over our heads.   

Is this true?  

We had never heard of that before. If I had to name one country that takes it easy with visas, it would be Mexico. And Lufthansa didn’t ask for that in January. It was an internal Iberia policy, the lady told us. If we were not allowed into the country upon arrival in Mexico City, Iberia would have to pay for the repatriation costs. Got it. They would not let us board the plane without a confirmation of departure. It was 10.30 p.m. and boarding was to take place an hour later. We started to break a sweat.  

Can we board?  

As a consequence, a flight had to be found immediately. So, we booked two flights from Mexico City to Los Angeles in January 2022 for a total of $250 with the Mexican budget airline Volaris. The lady from Iberia was happy with it and let us on board. The thing about it was that you could cancel the booking for free within 24 hours. So, I cancelled the flights again as soon as we got through Mexican passport control. And due to the currency conversion, I even made a $1 profit. What a joke!   

Relaxation is a long time coming  

On the 8-hour bus ride to Puerto Peñasco, we saw lots of lush greenery and it was even raining. So, we hoped it would be the same in Peñasco. Unfortunately, shortly before our journey’s end, the view turned back into the familiar dry desert. What a pity… After a total of 35 hours, we were kindly picked up by Sam from SV Pablo at the bus station. In this afternoon heat, all we wanted to do was turn on the air conditioning on our boat and relax. But when we plugged Milagros into the yard’s power grid, two things happened: the extension cable’s grounding broke off and the reverse polarity warning light on the control panel came on. Troubleshooting and repair instead of relaxation it was.  

Solutions were needed  

Having had the problem before, we knew that it didn’t necessarily have to be Milagros causing the problem, but that it could be someone else. So, we quickly found out that it was an extension cable from another boat that was causing the reverse polarity. Problem No. 1 solved. Then, we borrowed an extension cable from SV Pablo to get our air conditioners working. So that a short time later, we were able to replace the plug of the extension cable in Milagros’ nicely cooled-down cabin. Problem No. 2 solved. And while we couldn’t relax anyway, we also went shopping. This was not how we had imagined our return. But other than that, everything was fine with Milagros.  

Fixing the extension cord

New project management  

After a one-day standstill due to being completely overwhelmed by the many tasks still to be done, we have changed the way we manage our projects. Instead of post-it’s on the wall, we now have a planning tool in Excel. It was very unpleasant to always have to look at the wall with the coloured pieces of paper – even and especially after work. To always see what hadn’t been done yet. Now there are only notes for things we must not forget. With that change, our motivation came back quickly.

And maybe you remember the story about the package in Mexico. Well, two days after our arrival in Mexico, our package also arrived at its destination. Now the production of our new titanium chainplates could finally begin.   

Rusty bolts  

One thing that had been giving us a headache for some time now were four large bolts in the mast. They are used to attach the shrouds and stays (steel cables that support the mast) to the mast itself. The stainless-steel bolts are run through the mast in aluminium tubes. These tubes protect the mast from being compressed when the bolts are tightened. And the bolts were corroded together with the aluminium tubes.   

The stuff has to come out  

We had already managed to remove one bolt, leaving the aluminium tube in the mast. And in a night shift, we had managed to get the remaining 3 aluminium/stainless-steel combinations to turn with the help of long iron tubes. They moved but could not be removed from the mast. We could see that one of the aluminium tubes had broken open in the mast and no longer fitted through the hole. But the stuff had to come out. We (and others) had been trying for weeks.   

Finally!  

We had just started another attempt when Matt from SV Haricot Vert came around. He grabbed a piece of wood and levered out one of those bolts within a minute. We had hammered, rattled, greased, but nothing helped. For weeks. And then this. But we were glad and levered out the remaining 2. Now we could examine them more closely and have them rebuilt.   

Clearing out and dismantling  

We also had to take care of our future water supply. Since the manufacturer of the water tank did not want us to install the connections ourselves, we were forced to tell the manufacturer the exact positions of the inlet, outlet and vent. For this purpose, we built a wooden model. In order for it to fit in its place under one of the settees, I had to clear everything out and disassemble it. And no, they hadn’t mounted the drawer runners, for example, with handy Torks – no, with nails for eternity.   

Mission accomplished  

But everything had to come out. A bit of tearing, levering, kicking, jiggling, pulling and the model fit in there. The positions of the connections were quickly determined. However, we found that the routing of one of the diesel inlets had to be changed a bit so that the settee didn’t rise by 5 cm. But we will take care of that when the time comes. The water tanks don’t keep us from splashing, so they are not the highest priority.  

A fun ride?  

Every day our new friend Lionel, the owner of the Caterpillar shop around the corner, drives past the boatyard. We wave to each other, wish each other a good day or chat a bit. That’s how we found out that he owns a dune buggy and would like to take us for a spin. We didn’t have to be asked twice. A few days after our return to Mexico, we met him after closing time. His bright yellow vehicle was parked in front of the workshop next to the shop and was ready for us. His hermano helped us buckle up (5-point harnesses!) and we were on our way.  

A wild ride   

The destination was the dunes of Las Conchas on the other side of Puerto Peñasco. The wild ride began as soon as we left the town behind. Lionel sped through the hilly dunes at more than 50 mph.  But his desert race car didn’t mind. Maximum suspension, well motorised and professionally driven. We did not fear for our lives for a second. When we made our first stop, his hermano was already waiting and handed us a cold beer. What a service.   

Rubbish, Rubbish 

But the refreshment was overshadowed by the stench of rotting marine animal remains and other waste. Rubbish as far as the eye could see. Even on the speedy ride through the dunes, Lionel had to dodge everything: plastic crates, car tyres, shoes, oyster shells. Everything you could imagine or not. The desert was a smelly dump. No me gusta. That’s the way it is, said the two locals.  

More stopovers  

The rest of the trip took us along the sea to an oyster farm run by a women’s collective. Although David and I don’t like oysters, we are now keen to go there. There, too, we were served a cool beer. Afterwards we drove on through the dunes, made another pit stop and then drove back. Lionel showed us the various prizes he had won in desert races in his garage. Through the back door we could see a shrimp boat that had tilted a few hours earlier after being hauled out. Days later we saw a crane next to it. And another few days later, the boat had disappeared.   

Sanding the topsides  

In the days following our arrival, we were very productive. We also sanded the white painted topsides by hand to prepare it for the next (penultimate) coat of paint. The glossy white became a matt white. It hurt to destroy the beautiful smooth surface, but it had to be done. 

It had to be done?  

The night guard shook his head a few times at this. Why did we put paint on, only to sand it off and put paint on again? Why go through all this trouble? Why don’t we just paint it once? The workers here in the boatyard come from the shrimp boat industry. There, a steel boat is sandblasted and repainted once or twice a year. It doesn’t have to look nice; it just has to serve its purpose. The boats are working tools, not houses. Sailors are just a bit vainer.  

We also started preparing the sanded areas on the mast, where the paint had flaked off, for priming. And then we discovered something we didn’t like at all. Milagros shared her first nasty surprise with us.  

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