Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Would you like a little salt with that?

The perfect day on a perfect island
And you thought I was referring to a tequila shooter, with lime and salt, but no, I am referring to living on the windward side of an island in the Caribbean.
We live on Isla Mujeres a small island just off the coast of Mexico near Cancun.  It is paradise with its sunny warm weather, gentle breezes, turquoise waters, friendly people and cheap, cold beer.  However we have discovered there is a price to pay for living in such a beautiful location.  It’s called salt! 
The beautiful spume rising off the surf coats everything with a salty residue.  Our ocean front windows are currently caked with a week’s worth of salt – it makes the ocean look a bit fuzzy when viewed through the grime.  Every bit of metal corrodes, yes, eventually even stainless steel.  You should check out our cutlery drawer –rusted corkscrews, knives, and utensils.  Plastic is my new favourite!

My personal handyman fixing icemaker
 Electronics are the most sensitive to corrosion, rust, high humidity, and salt.  The various microwave ovens have burned-up in eight to ten months.  We have had three - progressively cheaper - coffee makers in three years.  The satellite stereo system lasted about a year, while the refrigerator icemaker and the dishwasher motherboards died exactly a week outside of the warranty period.  We replaced our deck furniture with a concrete and cushion sofa after two years, as the steel frame on the original set was quietly dripping rust onto the patio tiles.  The four ceiling fans get repainted every six months with white marine enamel to slow down the rust.

Francisco and Juan with cushions for new concrete sofa

The light bulbs seize in their sockets with rust or corrosion, and changing them involves a pair of needle-nosed pliers and lots of cursing. 

We did bring down special electrical grease from Canada to prevent that little problem, however my personal handyman decided replacing the entire socket with the light bulbs corroded inside, was more time and energy efficient.  (His time and his energy!  The replacement sockets can be purchased by the dozen at Home Depot for a $1.50 each.) 

Three repairs later, and we bought a new dishwasher

We recently had all of our expensive chrome-plated bronze Helvex bathroom fittings – towel bars, shower heads, sink taps replaced under warranty due to corrosion.  They were less than two years old.  We had great service from the Helvex head office in Mexico City.  We sent them a couple of items for their warranty department to inspect, then next thing we know we have a very large, and very heavy box delivered by courier replacing every single item in the three bathrooms.  Fabulous service.

Repairing a friend's gate - hinges corroded
 On our monthly list of chores, we spend a day lubricating every door lock, hinge, plus window and sliding door security locks with WD40.  Then we polish twenty stainless steel kitchen cabinet drawer pulls with Bar Keepers Friend and treat with a light coating of WD40.  Next chore is to polish the rust off of the stainless steel cook top, and wipe down the stainless steel front on both the dishwasher and the refrigerator with WD40. (WD-40 stands for "Water Displacement 40th Attempt". The inventor Norm Larsen was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles. He claims he arrived at a successful formula on his 40th attempt.)  For more interesting uses of WD40 check their website:  http://www.wd40.com/uses-tips/

If you think we are grumbling about the cost of replacing items damaged by the salt, we're not.  The way we look at is very simple.  In Canada our annual property taxes on a lakefront lot with a 2000 square foot house cost $8000.00.  Here on Isla an oceanfront lot with a similarly sized house the annual property taxes are less than $100.00.   It’s a small price to pay for living in paradise. 
After completing all of these repairs my personal handyman - Lawrie - needs a cold beer, or two.  Jeez, the bottle opener needs some WD40 too!


Janet said...

Wow a lot of work to lenghten the life of your appliances, etc. and to slow down the inevitable. Very interesting and informative. Thanks Lynda. Janet

Life's a Beach! said...

I'm exhausted and feel very lazy after reading about all that work! We also use WD-40 on our stainless appliances. After years of buying pricey stainless cleaners that always looked smeary, the building superintendent on this house made that suggestion. Works like a charm!

Sue said...

My Mexican esposo just learned something - try the warranty process. It's just something they've not been used to here, they just assume they have to repace things and never think about the warranty (probably because in most places the paperwork involved is more hassle than it's worth). So thanks for that info.

It's incredible how much more maintenance is required when living right there on the sea versus inland on the island (like meters inland). I still have the same tv I bought more than 9 years ago. Same stove, same fridge, same microwave, and same fans. But I know from the homes Miguel manages that those of you living on that side really pay the price in replacement. But I like your perspective - property taxes or replacement. And the bonus is...no snow!