Friday, March 1, 2013

Three … two … one … none!

Mooring lines on car ferry
For a few days this week the island looked like the aftermath of a small hurricane.  The sugar white sand of north beach covered the streets, spilling over the seawall and drifting across the sidewalks.  A strong westerly wind had been blowing for three days.  

Besides the unexpected appearance of sand dunes the grocery store shelves were bare, ATMs flashing out-of-service-signs, and the centro gas station was out of gasoline.  What the heck happened?

It was an unlucky confluence of events that conspired to create chaos.  The car ferry was out of service for a few days.  Tragic?  Not really.  Terribly inconvenient?  Absolutely.  

Living on an island has one disadvantage – everything must be brought to the island, or taken away from the island by boat.  No car ferry creates havoc with businesses and personal lives. 

The two nearly identical car ferries on Isla Mujeres
When we first moved here in 2007 there were two nearly-identical car ferries that were capable of carrying quite a number of the larger trucks, and passenger cars. 

Around 2009 the private company that owns and operates the car ferry service decided to sell one of those boats and purchased a different style of ship from South Korea, one that had better passenger carrying capacity, but less space for vehicles.  

The new kid on the block Sergio G. Aquilar
In the summer of 2010 one of the two identical boats was sold to Isla Holbox.  The new ship, re-christened the Sergio Gracia Aquilar, was faster but unruly when it came time to docking procedures due to its tall superstructure.  Eventually the captain and crew learned to tame the boat.  It was kept as a backup to be used on Sundays and national holidays when the number of passengers far outnumbered the vehicles.

About two weeks ago the remaining large capacity boat was sent to Campeche for emergency repairs to the bottom of the ship.  In previous years the car ferries were taken to Cuba, for a re-fit or repairs, until the cost became prohibitive.   

Once that boat was out of service, we were left with the smaller capacity car ferry - in use during high season.  Not the best solution, but the only one available.  The line-ups to get on the boat were longer and the chances of missing a sailing due to an overload increased exponentially.

How to berth an unruly car ferry - sideways!
And then Murphy and his law struck; Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  

Yep, the remaining car ferry broke down, out of service for a couple of days, leaving the local businesses scrambling to remain open.  The shelves in the grocery stores looked like people had been panic buying in preparation for a hurricane.  Fresh produce?  Nothing.  Empty ATMs at the banks and grocery stores refused to dispense cash.  

Jammed in on the Sergio Gracia Aquilar
Lineups were common at the one gas station that still had fuel.  Restaurant owners forced to make additional trips into Cancun to re-stock kitchens.  The paving project at Sac Bajo came to a halt – no asphalt available to continue.  

The garbage-hauler was unable to remove refuse from the island.  And most importantly the beer companies Corona and Sol were unable to replenish supplies!  In Lawrie’s estimation that was a national emergency!

Sunset through the superstructure of the car ferries
The smaller boat is back in service now, running a catch-up schedule.  It sails from either side when it is full!  The larger boat is due to return – eventually.  At one point in 2010 we had three car ferries, then two in 2011 when one was sold, then one as the larger ship recently went in for emergency repairs, and then none for a few days this week.

Synchronicity?  No, Murphy’s Law.

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

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