12-22-2016 – Paradise Marina, El Salvador

It’s been a busy month, filled mostly with boat projects. We did take a small break to celebrate Kathy’s birthday, driving up into the mountains for the night, we stayed in a big town called Berlin. There are some nice overlooks nearby and a hike to a lake in an old caldera that we didn’t end up doing. 🙂 We sat for a while in the town’s square, which was just beginning to be decorated for Christmas. Lots of people passing through, living their lives and surprised to see that there were tourists in town. We had a relaxing evening, and came back the next day feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work.

Where's Lungta?

Our ship has (finally) come in! We moved into this marina almost two months ago, intending to only stay one month. As it turns out, though, our freight shipment was delayed, both in getting it ordered and then again in its tortured progress through the customs office. We ordered quite a few items, having them shipped to a warehouse in Florida that collected our boxes until we said we were done. Our new generator was the gating item, because it turned out they build to order rather than keeping some in inventory. Once it arrived, the container was loaded and put on a ship the next weekend. Four days later it arrived in Guatemala and was trucked across the border into El Salvador. We spent more than a week after that working our way through customs, driving the 90 minutes into San Salvador four times to meet with our agent and the customs officials to keep the wheels rolling. We really saw the “sausage-making” process in action! Usually these shipments are processed under the name of the freight forwarding agent, but for various reasons he suggested that it would be a good idea to do this one under one of our names. (One reason was the size of the order, but another reason had something to do with a previous shipment having been flagged with fines, which might cause delays in subsequent shipments under the same name.) Fortunately for us, we already had the necessary identification card that we had acquired when we decided to buy a car last year. On our first trip into town, we visited three locations to try to get an account set up using this id card, but had troubles because of various people being out of the office. On the second trip into town, we went through the entire list of purchases, making sure that the agent (and his team) understood what they were so that they could categorize them correctly for the customs process. At this point, we thought we were done, but then the actual customs assessment began. A randomized “green-light/red-light” process determines the degree of inspection required for each shipment, and we unfortunately got the “red light”, the more rigorous inspection. The customs official looked through the paperwork and expressed concern that we might be trying to sell the items (illegally, since we just have tourist visas). So our third trip was to meet with her and show her that we were just a couple living on a boat which needed a lot equipment in order to continue on our way. After the morning’s review of the paperwork, we stuck around for the afternoon inspection of all the goods. In the quarantine area of the warehouse, our agent opened all of the boxes and laid the items out in the same order as they were listed on the import papers. When the customs official came by, we walked through all of the items, explaining what they did, why we needed them, and confirmed that the quantity was what had been declared. She had several questions, and suspiciously eyed the tub of thermal paste that we wanted for our electronic components that get hot enough to require heat-sinks. Ultimately she fined us $190 for the mis-classification of one of the items as a gasket instead of a belt. It seemed that she wasn’t satisfied until she found something that was out of order. After that long day, we again thought that we were done. But again we were called in the next morning to participate in the processing of the paperwork. We needed to sign the document that levied the fine, in triplicate, and then take it to a manager at another location for approval (because the manager of the location we were at was out that day). The papers were brought to three more desks for additional copies, signatures and stamps. Finally we had our clearance and the truck was called to bring our stuff out to the boat. It was after dark by the time they arrived at the marina, and the local team of workers stayed late to help unload the truck. We couldn’t have unloaded the almost 600-pound generator by ourselves! We left the three biggest items on the lawn near the marina office, and brought all of the boxes down the dock to the boat.

Still in El Salvador

The next morning was like Christmas for us! We opened all 37 of our packages, stowing electrical components here, kitchen stuff there, and parts for the welder in that box over there. We installed our replacement solar panel and got the generator placed into the newly painted hold. We had spent a week preparing the hold, including installing our bowthruster once again. This *big* motor gets installed in a hole in the floor, connected to a pair of sideways propellers that can turn the boat more quickly than the rudder when needed. Unfortunately it has gotten flooded with salt water several times over the years, when our old generator had problems related to the cooling system. Each time we vow that it will never happen again, but somehow it does. Now we are hopeful that it really will not happen again, because we are installing a new generator which should not have the same problems as the old one. (Hope really springs eternal, doesn’t it? 🙂 ) We have also installed a new switch which will ring a loud alarm if there is water in the hold. We are very excited about all the updates to this area of the boat! Now the cover to the lower area is on, and we are working on getting the generator installed: fuel, exhaust, cooling water, battery connections, control panel – it’s a couple of days’ work, but we’re happy that it’s all coming together. Dan is getting the welder all put together with lots of new parts, to finish up the work on our rudder. Kathy is putting a new sun-guard cover on another sail. And in between we’re catching up on lots of other smaller projects.

New Generator

Our freezer motor gave up the ghost this last month. It’s been having troubles for a few months now, so we weren’t completely surprised. We had a new motor coming in our big shipment, but it couldn’t hold out that long. We tracked down a shop to see if it could be rebuilt, but the news was not good. The commutator was completely worn down and would cost more to replace than the motor was worth. So we swapped our fridge motor in to the freezer’s place, and have been using the fridge as an ice box for the last 10 days or so. Two or three times a day we move 3 or 4 containers of ice from the freezer into the fridge and 3 or 4 different containers of water the other way. The freezer is running almost continuously (with the fridge’s motor), but it’s making ice – and we’re not short on power, because we’re at the marina. We will swap the new motor into the freezer now that it’s arrived, but we have to adapt a few parts – which necessitates another trip into San Salvador!

Clamping in the Tropics

The other major activity going on with us this month is the search for companions on our travels next year. We’ve had several people contact us and express interest. We’re still exploring the fit with some of these people, but aren’t “full” yet! If you know anyone who might be interested in joining us as we travel to the South Pacific, please refer them to our web-site, www.lungtalife.com, and have them contact us. We’re not always as nose-to-the-grindstone as these last few months! 🙂

We’d like to take this moment to wish all of our friends and loved ones (those two categories are not necessarily different!) a wonderful holiday season, taking time to be grateful for the people in your lives and the bounty that we all happen to have as citizens of the 21st century. I know that there are many people on this planet who have not been blessed with as much opportunity and resources, and I feel very fortunate to be living the life I am! Thanks to each of you for supporting us and encouraging us along the way! Here’s to a wonderful New Year – 2017, here we come!

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