LBS Pt. 5 – How NOT to Unload a Boat in Mexico

It started out innocently enough. Twelve guys, four gals, one dog and a mule (unused) trying to unload some stuff on our beach. We pulled together like we knew what we were doing. For a few seconds we were a cohesive team, even thinking we'd made it, until the boat started to slide back into the surf...

November 2008

For those of you who were there, you’ll find this story painful in a “what were we thinking?” kind of way.  For those of you who own a place in Chonchos, you’ll find this story instructive.  For those of you who are neither, consider this just another amusing-from-a-far day in our Mexican “resort.”

A bit of context first. Boats are everything to us Choncho-ites.  Most everything and everyone comes to us via boat.  The twice a day arrival of the water taxi is treated exactly like “the plane, the plane!” from Fantasy Island, as we all run down from our palapas to greet any new arrivals and to help unload their stuff.  We all watch the condition of the water like a New Yorker wakes up in the morning and turns on the weather report.  Rough seas, it’s going to be a bad day.  Calm waters and its a piece of cake.

This past Tuesday John, Chonchos’ El Jefe, arranged to have his boat pick up a load of stuff from PV.  It was a big and assorted load:  four mattresses, a couple of solar panels, batteries, solar controlers, at least two hot water heaters, two new propane tanks, two cases of wine, and a bunch of other “necessities” of island life.  It took the boat crew all morning to load the stuff in PV and the boat didn’t arrive at Chonchos until 1:00PM.  By that time, the calm sea of the morning had turned rougher.

The boat, the boat!! We all gather as the boat approaches.

Strategy Session (not). Ruben (center facing the camera) is Chonchos' foreman. He's telling us the boat will come in and we all need to grab the rope and pull it onto the beach. Someone comments then they don't think this is going to end well. We wonder why the usual method of pulling in, off-loading some things, pulling back out and then repeating isn't used. We don't know what the boat drivers know -- that reverse isn't working so the only way to make this happen is a Normandy-style approach

It's downhill from here. This is the last time things are in control. The boat has just hit the beach and we're all pulling it up the sand embankment. But, the rope is too small and rips through our hands, preventing us from stopping the boat washing back out with the waves. As waves start to push and pull the boat, an audible is called...

Chaos and danger. For a few seconds, Plan B appears to be working. We all sprint to the boat to grab something and haul it up the sand. Things get real heavy, real quick when the heart is going 170 and you're running full steam uphill. But it all soon goes awry, the boat's getting swamped and things are falling into the water. Each crashing wave brings us closer to losing control of the boat. The dangerous part comes in two forms: when we lose control of the boat someone could get caught underneath it as the waves pitch it every which way. But, more omniously, we have to keep our eyes on what's in the water-- a four foot long propane tank hurtling toward you will get your attention real quick. Luckily, I'm the only one who gets hurt when I step on a rusted anchor. We ultimately lose the battle as the boat gets swamped, and then rolls upside down and sinks in the waves near the shore

Shipwrecked? It takes us another 30+ minutes to drag the boat, now unloaded the hard way, to safety all the way up the beach. Afterwards, one of us remembers we have a mule...

Snorkeling anyone? Artemio, wearing goggles in the foreground, and others spend an hour or so diving in the the surf to recover the load. Notice heavy damage to the motor and one of the team rescuing some important cargo, a bottle of white.

I can think of better team-building exercises than trying to off-load a boat in the surf, but a team we became.  Well, perhaps more of a motley crew, but a crew none the less.  Next time we’re going to have a reverse gear, use the mule, and rig up a pulley system. Clearly brawn over brains doesn’t work.

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