June 26

We've had an eventful few days here at Hotel California (you can check out any time you like but you can never leave). On Monday I discovered that SeaMech (Suva, Fiji) the company who is supposed to be repairing our transmission has still failed to locate the parts required. This information came to me in a rather unusual manner. At the office of Pacific Marine (an outfit located on the premises) where I was sitting at a desk using one of their telephones to check on the status of the repairs.

Before I had dialed the phone a man I knew popped his head in and said hello. I asked him how his trip was to the US from where he had just returned and he said he had overheard me speak with someone else about my transmission woes. Tom (S/V Optimum Trust) was also having his transmission repaired by SeaMech and he had purchased all the parts required himself while in the US. He told me that SeaMech had sent him e-mail while he was in the US asking him to purchase 3 additional parts. It now turns out these are the parts they needed for my transmission.

The thing is, they had the gearbox for 2 weeks already at that point and had still not found a source for the parts. And they didn't inform me. In the US, of course, this kind of crap would happen very rarely but in Fiji this seems to be normal as in other tropical locales. Of course, Tom could not find the parts and he was offering to me that information since he had surmised now that they were indeed the parts I needed.

On the phone SeaMech confirmed this and said they were just today (Monday) working on contacting their other suppliers in NZ and Australia to see if they had the parts. When we're they going to let me know this was a problem. If I had not called them, never I am sure. Additionally, Tom let me know that his supplier in the US told him that IF the parts could be found (and it might take him 2 weeks to do so) that one single part of the 3 would cost US1400.

Of course, this information was of great interest to me as the cost of a replacement transmission was no more then that one part (refurbished - the one I have is no longer manufactured by Borg Warner and the closest model to it is 1" longer which would require the shaft to be modified, etc.). Clearly the potential cost of repair parts should have been determined before ordering them.

After I got off the phone with SeaMech (may they rot in hell) I began to make inquiries about purchasing a transmission. We found one in New Zealand on the recommendation of Ken from "Mollie" (who we met here in Fiji this year and who is from Auckland) from a place called Moon Engines in Auckland. They guarantee it for one year as if it were new (as did the US sources I checked with also) and will ship it, hopefully, today, Wednesday. I first contacted a source in Seattle but the cost was considerably higher. In fact, the total cost with shipping to Fiji (which component alone was $1,400) was approximately $4,000. The NZ source sold me the gearbox for $1,400 and the shipping was only $200. The shipping costs are obviously lower due to the proximity of NZ to Fiji (about 1,000 miles) whereas Seattle is more like 5,000 miles.

The cost of the transmission from NZ is considerably less because, being a refurbished gearbox, the majority of the cost which went into it were labor costs (rebuilding it) and in NZ labor is incredibly cheap. A skilled mechanic doing work like this probably earns no more then $20/hour, perhaps $30. In the US a similarly skilled mechanic might earn 2 to 3 times more. Now figure in the "50% discount" for using US dollars.

It looks like now we will be stuck here another 2 weeks. We have been here for 3 weeks already as of today. Add the 3 weeks in Suva we spent while they repaired it the first time and we have a total so far of 6 weeks downtime (not to mention the 5 days we took to get to Vunda Marina from Suva which you can read about in the Ship's Log in late May). The crew's moral is low though I am trying to keep their spirits up.

My next problem is to find someone to install it. I am not qualified myself to do the job and would prefer not to try as the result would surely be skinned knuckles and a nagging doubt in my mind that I did it wrong. The problem is there seem to be very few candidates for the job. You will, of course, read more about this in the future as events develop.