Seeking Asbestos

Why, you ask, would anyone go in search of asbestos? The mere mention of the substance is enough to send people shrieking in fright. It is so carcinogenic that simply whispering it's name gives a person throat cancer. Never mind that in my younger days I used roll in the stuff, and nothing has happened to …..urk!….glak!….(thud). No, I'm being overly dramatic. "Four Seasons" has a dry stack exhaust. What this means is that the engine exhaust comes up through a pipe in the center of the salon. It makes a bend there, and there is a joint just about at eye level inside a little door. It's a very hot pipe. The joint has a gasket. Are we beginning to see a picture emerging here? Said gasket developed a hole in one side, allowing stinky diesel exhaust into the living room. Admiral didn't approve. Need new gasket.

A call to Pacific Asian Enterprises, builder of "Four Seasons" and other fine Nordhavns now roaming the seas, resulted in a lot of hemming and hawing but no gaskets. The engineering manager suggested that we get "summa that red stuff" but he couldn't come up with a name. Up to me, I guess. So I showed Howard the problem. We agreed, both of us being engineers, that this gasket material should be asbestos. Howard lives here in Mazatlan, and even better, Howard has a car. Howard volunteered to escort us in search of a new gasket, or at least, gasket material. On Sunday, we made a reconnaissance trip down to the commercial wharfs where the shrimpers hang out. There is certainly not going to be any asbestos within martini shaking distance of Marina El Cid where "Four Seasons" is berthed, but shrimp trawlers are probably full of it. We found the Caterpillar dealer, (closed) and the fuel injector repair place, (also closed) and three muffler repair shops, (closed, closed, closed) and a number of marine ferreterias, (you know by now) but we had a place to start. We vowed to return Monday or Tuesday.

On Tuesday, we found the Caterpillar dealer just where we'd left him on Sunday, open. No English spoken, of course. Gasket is empaque in Spanish. I needed material from which to make an empaque for my engine. The man behind the counter seemed to understand this, and inquired as to what type of Caterpillar engine I needed this empaque for. Not a Caterpillar, I said. A Lugger. Made by Alaska Diesel from a John Deere tractor engine. A flurry of confusion erupted, while he tried to understand what kind of Caterpillar a Lugger was and what relationship this guy John had to it all. No, no, no, I explained, NOT a Caterpillar. He was wearing a Caterpillar hat; the other counter guys were wearing Caterpillar hats; there were Caterpillar hats for sale in the glass showcase. There were Caterpillar belt buckles, shirts, jackets and patches as well. Most of the boxes on the shelves said Caterpillar. The sign above the door, on the counter, and on all the big, yellow machines in the parking lot said, CATERPILLAR. Could it be that I was unclear on the concept?

We finally decided that Caterpillar could not assist in keeping Lugger exhaust gasses from escaping into the living room. We changed subjects. I needed oil. Did they perchance have Chevron Delo 400 motor oil, I inquired? He regarded me silently. He pointed to the sign. No, he said patiently; they had Caterpillar oil. I was beginning to get it. I praised the oil; if Cat makes it, it's got to be good, I said, and the counter man, not understanding a syllable, grinned and nodded as Howard and I dragged 7 gallons of it out to the Jeep.

We drove around, trying various places and having no better luck than we had had with the Cat dealer, until we found a fairly large Marine Hardware store. These are called Ferreterias in Mexico. It was a fairly typical configuration for industrial stores in Mexico; it was situated on a corner, and had two huge roll up garage doors at right angles to each other. When the doors were opened, the entire store was like an open air market. I described my problem: material to make an empaque for hot exhaust gasses. Mucho calor! I made scissoring motions with my fingers to show that I wanted to make said empaque. He grinned broadly, invited me to come behind the counter and look, and there were rolls and rolls of asbestos gasket material! Just exactly what we needed. I bought 4 square feet of it, enough to keep all the Nordhavns in the world in empaques for the next 10 years, and it cost 52 pesos; about six dollars. He even had asbestos wrapping material, fairly close to what had been on the exhaust in the first place.

It was now almost 11 AM. We had scored oil, gasket material and asbestos wrapping and were sort of killing time until we could justify going to lunch. Then we met Mark. Mark had been down in the commercial wharf district, on foot, since 8. He was looking for a specific Racor filter for his sailboat engine. He was carrying the pitiful, filthy, slimy remains of his old filter in a plastic bag. Donna helped him with some Spanish translation about his filter and we struck up a conversation. No luck here at the Ferreteria, nor at any of the dozen or so places he had tried before we found him. We offered him a ride, at least back out where he could catch a bus, and while we were at it, we'd try a few more places we thought might have Racors. The owner had made a call to someone he was sure would have Mark's filter. While we were waiting (we were done, but we were now captive to Mark, having made the offer of a ride) the owner invited all of us back behind the counter once more. He gave us a complete tour of the store, upstairs and down. He had chain from 1/4 inch to 2 inch; rope from ¼ inch to 3 inch; hose from ½ inch to 6 inch; gears and sprockets from 1 inch up to a couple of feet in diameter; stainless steel tubing, pipe fittings, clamps, screws, nuts, bolts, light bulbs, fuses, filters - but not Mark's - it just went on forever. And there, on a shelf behind the counter, was "summa that red stuff". It's a tube of gasket forming silicone that is good for 650 degrees F. So I bought that too. This is definitely the place to get boat parts in Mazatlan.

We got directions to the Parker-Hannifin store. Parker is the parent company of Racor. They would surely have Mark's filter. It was out on the main highway, to the right 2 blocks, at the first stop light. Now, as I have previously explained, "two blocks" in Mexico does not mean 2, numerically. It means some indefinite distance, generally confined within the city limits, and generally in the direction the speaker is pointing. But not necessarily. It's the same type of word as mañana which seldom actually means the day after this one. We went to the main highway, turned right, and about 12 blocks and four stoplights later, there it was, right at the last stoplight before the street we were on turned into a four lane highway and zoomed off toward Puerto Vallarta. But no joy. We had exhausted all possibilities. We dropped Mark at the bus stop and Howard explained to him that he might have to clean the filter and re-use it. A difficult job, but one that could be done with a toothbrush and some diesel fuel. Just don't brush your teeth with it afterwards, Howard said, it tastes awful.




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