We arrived in Puerto La Cruz on Sunday, September 24, and crashed after the eighteen-hour trip from Tortuga. On Monday morning, La Esmeralda told us that a highly recommended mechanic was coming to his boat at 0900 and would talk to us if we wanted. About mid-morning, Tom the mechanic stopped by. He said the repair was going to be extremely complicated, requiring two people at least three hours just to remove the transmission. All the money we didn't spend while in the islands plus considerably more would now go toward the transmission repair. As Roseanna Roseanna Danna used to say on old Saturday Night Live, "It's always something."
After Tom left, we rejoined civilization by doing laundry, checking e-mail, shopping for produce, having a Wendy's hamburger for lunch, and (not in this order) calling the credit card company to be sure there had been no fraudulent use of the credit card. We had heard on the SSB security net that Russ and Carol on Pelagic had incurred fraudulent charges over $20,000 on their credit card. They had used their card only at the bank to get local currency and two very large reputable grocery stores. We had shopped at the same places. News of the fraud had come across the SSB while we were in Tortuga so, without communication, we had been unable to check on the card. Needless to say, I was a bit antsy until I called and confirmed the good health of my card.
It took Tom the mechanic and his helper over four hours to take out the transmission bolted to the bottom of the engine. Despite our spacious engine room, the guys had to work on their knees with their heads down below their waists, unable to get good handle or purchase. It took the two of them along with Bob to get it up the companionway's five steps since it weighed 135 pounds. The transmission had to be totally rebuilt because the salt water had turned the bearing blue from over heating. While the transmission being rebuilt, Bob enlarged the hole in the engine room so the heavy unit would be easier to put back than it was to take out. When Tom reinstalled the transmission and ran the engine, he said the injectors didn't sound right. He took them out and had them checked. More bad news, all four had to be rebuilt. Tom got the work done quickly and efficiently and we were able to leave on schedule.
Tom said he would not guarantee his work unless we replaced the oil cooler. Truly a miracle, Bob ordered it on Thursday, it was shipped on Friday, and it arrived at the marina on late Tuesday afternoon, a time frame almost unheard of in Venezuela!
Bob's toe didn't get any better after seven days of antibiotics so we went to the doctor. Someone told us about a clinic where a doctor spoke English. We just showed up about 1330 and the receptionist told us the doctor would be back between three and four. Several times, Bob asked the receptionist if he would be the first to be seen and she had finally good-naturedly given him a note to that effect. While we continued to wait in the lobby, we struck up a conversation with a twenty-two year old from Peru who was studying to be a chef. He spoke little English and we little Spanish but the three of us spent an hour drawing pictures, gesturing, and communicating fairly well. About 1500, we went up to the sixth floor where the doctor's office was located. Other people had already begun to gather and there was quite a crowd by the time the doctor arrived after 1600. Wearing a long sleeved black and white checked shirt instead of a white coat, he unlocked the door. We and the other impatient patients pushed into the office behind him, jockeying for first place. When Bob presented his note, the doctor acknowledged it. A lady thought she should have been first, but the doctor told her she didn't have a note!
The doctor led us into his office/examining room. His desk was constructed of vinyl covered wire baskets opened on the end and stacked two high like drawers, a set on each side of his knees and spanned by a piece of glass for the desk surface. He had no receptionist in the office so he answered his cell phone whenever it rang and carried on lengthy conversations. This happened several times with patients, and once with his wife who had a special ring. Dr. Amundarian began an informal medical history on a 5 x 7" piece of plain white paper. He asked about Bob's ancestry since his name was Welch but missed the Mediterranean features and Italian heritage. He put Bob on the examining table and looked at the toe with a light and magnifying glass. He weighed Bob, took his blood pressure, and checked his lymph nodes.
The doctor seemed to enjoy speaking English, asking how to pronounce words, especially those spelled the same in both languages but pronounced differently. He explained apologetically that he no longer spoke English well. For a year before he began studying medicine, he lived with a cousin in Connecticut and commuted to New York City three times a week to study music. He asked where we were from and how we got to Venezuela. He wanted details of our trip down the island chain. We could hear the waiting patients getting loud and restless.
The doctor prescribed two antibiotics, a month-long regime of steroids where you cut the tablet into quarters, a tetanus shot, a topical cream, and a medication to protect the stomach from the antibiotics. As in the Dominican Republic, the doctor does not give injections and does not have a nurse in the office. The patient takes the prescription to the pharmacy, gets it filled, buys a syringe, then goes to a nurse or emergency room to have the shot administered. The doctor had no bookkeeper or billing clerk so we paid him directly. He took out his billfold to make change. The charge was 18,000 Bs, approximately $26.00 US for well over an hour of consultation and examination. The doctor showed us to the waiting room and, as we walked out the office door, we heard a woman cry, "Hallelujah!"