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Thread: Once I had a boat in Mexico

  1. #1
    joseph engraver
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Santa Stefano di Magra,Italy
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    Once I had a boat in Mexico

    Now that I can no longer sit and watch the sun set on the horizon and take long walks in solitude on the beach of Playa Blanca, I have to find other ways of passing my days here in Italy. Writing and remembering is one way that I find most enjoyable. Here is a short story that I hope you will enjoy.
    She was a 27 foot long fishing boat set up for big game but she started out as a dream that took many dollars and persistence to turn into a real fish catcher.
    I first saw her sitting next to a tienda in the village of Barra De Potosi, only a hull, covered in dust and filled with old nets and empty beer bottles. I bought her for nine hundred dollars .The owner gave me a hand written receipt. Which I being new and naive to Mexico at the time assumed was all it was necessary to take possession.
    I found out later that many more documents would be needed before she would be registered with the Port of Zihuatanejo Mexico Captain.
    For power I had purchased a Yamaha fifty-five horse power motor with hydraulic lift in the States and had brought it down in the back of my old Chevy truck along with outriggers, rods, reels, hooks, lines, sinkers and a fish finder..Most of which I later found to be worthless when catching large game fish. I was a complete novice when it came to fishing for big game and I am sure that the locals had many a laugh over my lack of knowledge.-My experience was two charter trips with local captains for sailfish which caught nothing and had cost a sack of money. It was on these trips that I decided to learn to fish for big game in the Pacific. I set my goal to catch a fish weighing more than me and I wanted to do so with my own boat. Little did I know that this decision would take me on a seven year wonderful an exciting learning adventure such as I had not imagined
    In the bay of Zihuatanejo there are many fishing Panga´s along with an assortment of larger sports boats. Early in the morning I stood on the pier looking at all these boats trying to imagine how I would turn the hull I had purchased into my own Panga.
    There was one boat named Marfil that stood out amongst the clutter of boats in the bay, It had a clean profile and was painted the color of Ivory .She was built of fiberglass with skill, it´s lines were sharp and crisp. I asked the locals who owned a boat named Marfil and was told to talk to Ramon Garcia. I would find him at the boat yard located next to a lagoon named Las Salinas. That lagoon has been so polluted by sewerage, solvents and toxic wastes that it is a wonder that the water there does not spontaneously¨ burst into flame-
    Ramon Garcia and his brother Diego have built the majority of the Panga fishing fleet working out of Zihuatanejo bay. They had designed, and constructed fiberglass molds for every part of the boat that I eventually commissioned. It was with skill and knowledge that they turned my neglected Yamaha hull into a comfortable seaworthy dream come true. Twelve thousand dollars and three months later the motor was bolted to the stern, outrigger´s, five rod - holders, benches , rod gimbals, fighting chairs, storage bins,, two one hundred liters internal fuel tanks and live bait tank were in place. I selected ivory paint for the hull and dark blue zinc based paint below the waterline. The last touch was giving my new boat a name.
    I considered all sorts on names related to fishing or luck, having won a good part of the money to build her gambling at poker. I discussed possible names with my wife Franca.”Why not give your boat your mother’s name?”The suggestion by my wife of naming my boat after my mother was a bit of a surprise as our relationship had always been troubled, and we had not been close for many years. I did love her and I was sure that in her own way she had loved me. I am a restless soul and we did not understand one another, many contentious words had created a divide that was not reconcilable.
    Franca, I said.”You know how I feel about my mother, the farm for unwanted children and all the rest of that. Why would I name my boat after her?” Franca said “But that was a long time ago and she is old and will not live many more years Joseph. Besides I think that you have made her proud to have had you. You are a respected Artist and have made a good life for us. I know that your childhood was painful and you suffered physical and sexual abuse on your Aunts farm. But that was over and done with years ago. Look at how well you have overcome all those terrible things you experienced.”
    I thought about it for a few days. My mother was a practical, resilient and determined woman and I thought that to be appropriate for a boat that I would one day take out into the unpredictable Pacific Ocean. Then one morning as I was readying to go to the boat yard and see how the painting was progressing it occurred to me that the woman who had cared for me, educated, protected, and believed in me as a child, and who I love dearly was also named Lillian. I went to the Salinas, found the painter and then with a pencil drew the name of Lillian in my best script and told the painter to do the letters in black with red accents.
    It was late afternoon when my beautiful new boat was slid down the bank of the lagoon and into that stinking toxic mud where she immediately grounded. The Garcia brother enlisted the help of a couple of other boat builders to push her into enough water to set her afloat. As much as I dreaded the idea of getting into that polluted water I waded out up to my knees, immediately lost my sandals in the muck. I retrieved them, then helped push her out and climbed aboard .I had from the start decided to have an experienced motorman with me at all times .It was the only thing that I had done right and even that was to become a mistake.
    I had met Antolin in the village of Barra di Potosi and enlisted his help to take the hull over to the Zihuatanejo boat yard. He was the secretary for the Corprativa di Pesca and was well know to the Port Captain. I found this to be a great help in navigating the red tape that I had to go through in legalizing Lillian. He was a very large native Indio with a huge pot belly who had fished all of his life. What I did not know about him was he was a liar, drank excessive amounts of beer, never fished for big game, did not know how to rig bait and was lazy...As you dear reader have most likely have figured out I am already up toxic creek without oar or compass.
    So there I was afloat in my shiny new boat, the deck covered with muddy toxic waste. Antolin complaining that the motor was not good, the steering mechanism was all wrong and I should have bought a pull start motor with a tiller and manual controls just like all the other Panga’s. Instead of the 55 horsepower short shaft, with hydraulic tilt, key start, remote throttle and cable steering. He was absolutely right as it was not long before the cables began to corrode, the battery disappeared one night and the lower unit needed work. Two years after her launching Lillian was refitted with a pull start, long shaft manual tiller 75HP Yamaha two stroke motor and Antolin was replaced
    I had put enough fuel in the tank to take Lillian out for her maiden voyage .Ignoring Antolin’s complaints I told him to “start her up”. He looked at me as if I were loco and said “We have no anchor, no rope, no oar, no beer and no place to tie her up.” Oh what fools we are when we think that we know it all.
    I did not dare to be alone in the boat as I had no clue how to steer or even start the motor .I jumped into the waist deep water and waded back to shore to find beer, rope, oar and anchor. Meanwhile the onlookers to this disaster that the Gringo had gotten into, pointed, talked and laughed to themselves. I bought beer, the rope, a rusted anchor made from bent rebar, an oar made from a pine board which I got from one of the Garcia brothers. Then waded out to my where Antolin was sitting in comfort... I handed him the beer and over- priced equipment then dragged my wet butt back onboard carrying more mud and slime onto my new deck.
    The sun was rapidly dropping into the horizon when we at last made way to Ixtapa Marina. Once we cleared Zihuatanejo bay and were on open water I naturally wanted to see how fast Lillian would go. Following the breaking in Instruction Manual I told Antolin to open up the throttle to half speed .Then sat down in my fighting chair and was enjoying the rush of adrenaline, pride and fresh air.
    Lillian came up on plane and her hull sliced through the water with a sweet hiss... I fell in love. It was then I saw that the transom was flooding. Water was pouring out of the live bait tank and cascading into the stern. Antolin who was looking forward did not notice. I yelled “stop, stop” and pointed to the transom .He slowed my floundering dream and the flooding slowed. .Dead in the water we both stared down into the bait tank. It took a while for me to understand what was happening. The bait tank had no valve to control the flow at a higher speed and the support for the hydraulic cylinder was blocking the transom drain hole. I stood there with water now flooding the deck wondering what to do, Antolin took a sponge stuffed it into the hole in the tank and then bent down and pulled the drain plug in the stern. More water came rushing into the already flooded boat. I stared at him not having a clue what he was doing .He put the boat in gear and pushed the throttle forward. Gave me “El Capitan” a rag to clean up the mud and slime as the water drained out of my new boat .As I cleaned the deck I watched in amazement as the water was quickly sucked out of the hull.
    I guess that you could call this my first lesson in boat ownership.”The hole in the hull called the drain is for draining the boat.”
    MY SECOND LESSON. A Boat Is Costly.
    I now had a boat but no place to moor it. We motored into the marina, passing all those pristine yachts with their crews cleaning, suntanned girls gleaming, and flag´s from different countries waving. As we motored by I suddenly realized just how small Lillian was. We found a space at the dock and tied up. In very few minutes a guard showed up and wanted to know what we were doing there. In my stumbling Spanish I explained that I wanted to keep my boat there for the night, which was rapidly approaching.
    His English was understandable but I was not sure that I understood him when he said.”You have to get permission and until you have it you cannot tie your boat to this dock.”I asked what I thought was the logical question.”OK how do I go and get permission if I can´t tie my boat up?” “You can leave your man on it and he can wait over there.” he said pointing to open water nearby. I abandoned Lillian and jumped onto the dock. The guard then directed me to the office of the marina. It was a large and elegant building that had the look of money, lots of money. I wandered around the outside looking for the office until I realized that the whole building was the office. Once inside I found a very trim and attractive woman dressed in a smart white and blue uniform standing behind a polished granite counter. (You did not think she would be fat and ugly, did you?) As there were several people waiting for her to give them attention. I sat down on a white leather sofa and watched the spectacular sun set with dread .It was dark when she gave me her attention. Relieved that she spoke fluent English I explained my situation to her “May I see your boats documents and receipts please”, she said with a nice smile. To shorten this story for you I told her that I had no documents and explained most of what you already know. Her charming smile turned to ice and her face at once took on a look of utter amazement. “It is impossible for you to keep an undocumented and not registered boat in this marina.”
    What to do. What to do?
    I decided to beg. My Great Aunt had taught me to always be polite, so I answered her in my most humble tone of voice. “Madam, I am a small man and I have a small boat. It is dark now and I have no place to keep her for the night, Please can you find a way for her to stay here for just tonight and tomorrow I promise you that I will have all the documents you require.”
    I do not know whether it was my politeness or the tears that were forming in the corners of my eyes but she wavered a moment then her smile returned and she gave me a dock pass, a map of the marina, and told me where I could find my slip. Not wanting this wonderful chance to evaporate I pulled out my wallet dug out my bank card and asked how much the charge is. I maintained my composure when she said, “four dollars per foot per day”. My Aunt Lillian would have turned in her grave and my mother would have fainted, but I smiled and said.”That is fine, thank you so very much.” Out into the night I went looking for Antolin and Lillian. I found him on the bunk and the empty six packs on my fighting chair.
    The spot I had paid for was at the far end of the marina. It was dark and out of sight, it looked like the perfect spot for someone to make off with my boat in the night. We tied Lillian up, walked back to a port office then caught a cab back to the Barra de Potosi...
    THE NEXT LESSON OF BOAT OWNERSHIP, You must have the right documents.
    Before the sun was up I was wide awake. Actually I was awake most of the night worrying. After a pot of espresso coffee I drove my old truck down to Antolin’s house. He on the other hand was still sleeping. It took time to get him up and moving but we were at the port captain’s office in Zihuatanejo before nine AM. The captain was a friend of Antolin and welcomed us into his office with a generous smile. He was a large man and I am sure had had many experiences with foreigners who spoke little Spanish and had a boat in Mexico as his English was almost perfect. I explained my circumstances. He asked me “Do you have official receipts for your boat?”I had no clue what an official receipt was but I did have a hand written receipt in Spanish from the man I had bought the hull from and a warrantee card for the motor I had brought down from the States. I dug them out of my now thin wallet and handed them to him. The captain looked at them, handed them back to me and said that I would need to have a notary make me bill of sale for the hull. And this could only be done if I had four people who knew the seller and would testify under oath that he was the true owner. I thanked him for his time spent with me explaining how I could resolve my dilemma, found my boat mate on the pier and headed back to the Barra in search of four good and true Mexican fishermen who would swear that the sale was in good faith for a couple of six packs of Corona beer .
    It did not take long before I had the owner, Antolin and four thirsty fishermen loaded in my truck and was on my way back to the office of Notary number XX. The notary s office showed the results of his living the fine life of graft, bribery and corruption. It was furnished in leather, marble, stainless steel and decorated with several nice pieces of sculpture. Ten minutes and two hundred fifty dollars later I had my witnessed and officially stamped and notarized bill of sale. As I paid and picked up my papers I noticed that the seller and the witnesses had disappeared out the door leaving me and Antolin in their dust. The morning was gone and the Captains office was closed till three.
    Having nothing to do for the next two hours I decided to drive back to Ixtapa and see how Lillian had survived the night...When we walked up to the boat I noticed a large white scar on Lillian’s beautiful smooth bottom. At first I was disappointed then I became angry as I demanded an explanation from Antolin who shrugged his shoulders and said. “No lo say” Then I became resigned to the fact that there was no use in discussing the subject as I would never get a straight answer. Later I saw the strip of blue paint on the rock….
    Back to the Port Captain and my next lesson in Mexican boat ownership.
    Never assume that there will be smooth sailing
    When I arrived at the Captain’s office he was waiting with a smile. I have noticed that Mexicans have nice smiles even when they are picking your pocket or giving you the run around. I shook hands and gave him my new authorized and notarized bill of sale.
    With hope running high I waited for my authorization to navigate Lillian on Mexican waters. Then I found my expectations dashed on the rocks of regulations. The port captain told me that he would need photographs of Lillian, two taken from the bow, stern and sideways. And, the photos had to have no other boats in them, no one on board and in color. “.Like this,” he said as he shows me a photo of a yacht on the open sea, with what must have been an invisible crew and the photographs taken from a helicopter. He continued,” also there is the matter of safety equipment. Did I have six life jackets, one flare gun, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, a mirror, a whistle, running lights compass, a life ring with twenty meters of rope attached to it, anchor, oar and last but not least a marine band radio?” I was surprised there was no mention of a beer cooler. I had never been out with a local fisherman who had a whistle, mirror or fire extinguisher. But, they all had beer coolers.
    If, I have to take credit for all my faults, I can take also credit for my stubbornness. At this point the sensible person would have thrown in the towel and quit. Not me. I was determined that Lillian would roam the same waters that Zane Grey once fished and I would one day catch a fish bigger than me. Even if it took all my savings and possibly my sanity and marriage .What pig headed fools we can be.
    I have realized that this tale is going to be too long so I will just add that eventually Lillian was approved for safety, received her fishing permit and officially licensed by the good port Captain. In part this was accomplished by giving a new marine radio to the village of Barra di Potosi and inviting the Capitan to my home for an Italian dinner, wine and tequila. Soon afterward I went to Ixtapa to pay off the dockage fees with my not too happy wife´s bank card on the promise that I would bring her breakfast in bed for the rest of our wedded life...
    Fifteen years have passed since Lillian was christened and I started to learn how to fish for big game. I never thought that when I started this voyage into unknown waters that there were so many things to learn. It is a list too long to begin to itemize, but it includes reading a compass, GPS, ocean currents, water temps, setting a course, spotting bait, sharpening hooks, tying hooks, using the right hook, the correct amount of reel drag, successfully setting the hook when the right moment comes .selecting lines, leaders, lures, baits, trolling speeds, bait placement, reading the dolphin and bird activities and all the other small detail. As those years drifted by I learned all I could by reading books and magazines and asking many questions.
    The Salt Water Sportsman and Marlin provided me with a vast amount of invaluable information needed to become a successful fisherman. In 2006 after six years of sun, sweat and a bit of blood I entered Lillian into the three day International Sailfish, Marlin and Dorado tournament being held in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. She was competing against one hundred and thirty other boats of all types .When the tournament closed she had taken the pool money on the first day. And won second and third place and two cars for the largest Sailfish when the contest ended. It was a week later when that fish, the fish weighing more than me struck about thirty mile out. When it was in the boat and I headed for home I told my mate that I was selling my boat and had no reason to fish any longer.
    Lillian no longer exists. Her name has been changed and she fishes as La leyenda (Legend)
    My last and most valuable lesson of owning a boat in Mexico.
    Always maintain a sense of humor and never lose your patience when dealing with people who have been placed in a position of power over you.

  2. #2
    Registered User DATo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Very interesting and humorous account. I felt your pain *LOL*

    Bureaucracy is the same wherever you go as are the hazards of embarking on any new venture. I admire your tenacity and cheer your eventual glory.

    A nice and enjoyable read.

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