The seagull has landed…….
At thirty seven minutes past the hour of twelve. On the17th of October 2006 that being yesterday. A British built seagull engine, serial number 75466 was released from custody. After being held captive for over three weeks without sunlight, petrol, not a drop of oil, and with slim chance of ever getting out of the clink.
I, Andy, the new owner of afore mentioned motor, forthwith known as ‘Jonathon’, declare this day a day of celebration in the name of justice and fair play, and raise a toast to the men and women of the Argentine postal service and to the slightly dodgy and yet extrodinarily pleasant south American customs officials whom work within said service.
After a horse and cart ride through a German forest, six bratwurst and a few schnapps, it transpired that Michelle’s father, David, aka David ‘king of the outboards’ Vaughan, had in his possession an old, slightly dented, 1970’s British Seagull outboard motor (2hp short shaft for the spotters)….
I was in the market for a smaller outboard and so …things were looking good.
Michelle went back to the states, talked with David, and a deal was struck.
David gave me the outboard! I had to wonder, but put it down to him being a decent sort of a chap.
Correspondence between David and I began to take place. Now I am not saying he is a man of few words, but when at one point I asked for an ‘Aye’ if the address to post the seagull to was working out for him, the emailed reply was.
Thank you David that made my day.
The crux of the matter.
The seagull ‘Jonathon’ was being sent by post from California to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing an address was organised via a friend of Rhian’s: ‘Marcello’. I had not yet met with Marcello. Things were indeed looking good.
I had arrived in Ushuaia. The seagull was in the post. Marcello was primed, the date was set; all we needed now was….. Argentine customs!
Marcello “Hola Andy the motor is here.”
“Perfect shall we pick it up tomorrow?”
“No first we must let customs know what is in the box!”
“No next week”
“Oh so two weeks!”
Thursday next week.
Police man. Very dapper tight jeans, leather jacket, mirrored shades.
Me, flip flops. One had broken on the way to the post office I had tied it together with soldering wire, wearing a big woolly hat with lamas on it.
The scene was set we eyed one another suspiciously and each began his play.
Police Man “Senor what is in the box?” ‘He’s serious’
Me “An old Seagull motor” ‘smile’ I can’t see his eyes…
PM “The motor is petrol”
Me “Si” ‘smile’ yes I can speak Spanish.
Me “Si” ‘keep smiling.
PM “How old?”
ME “Oh you know, Very!” Really grinning now do I look dodgy?
PM “Hmmm you can’t have it.”
Me “Oh” smile fading.
Both continue to eye one another suspiciously. Marcello says something fast… Lots of gesticulating. I feel like I’m going to the wall.
It’s the hat isn’t it ….what about the smile?
Further conversations with Marcello
Ok he (customs man) now requires an accurate list of exactly what are in the boxes and a realistic price……. Dear David, you and I may agree that the value of contents comes to the sum of $1, but Argentine customs smell something small and rodent like at such times.
David and I emailed one another, Ok David I need you to detail what is in the box and say its worth around $75.
Email from David:
Contents of box 1x seagull engine outboard. Cost of contents $75.
Brilliant that ought to swing it!
Back we go to Mirrors.
Buenos Dias senor, jo tengo une letter para usted con el contents y el pricio… told you I could speak Spanish…
Mirror’s was stumped the letter trembling in his hand.
Contents of box 1x seagull engine outboard. Cost of contents $75…
It was all there black and white; I could see him quiver, his lip trembling, sweat on his brow, he was folding right there in front of my very eyes.
I’ve got him.
Me “Si” ‘smile’
PM “You cannot send a used motor through the post, we must send it back!”
Me “Ah senor, back?! But through the post?”
Marcello moves in more hands; talking gets faster.
It’s the hat again, isn’t it?
Marcello and I convene over coffee.
Ok Andy, I think things are looking good (really Marcello?). I have spoken with the customs and we must now tell him the contents of the box that is not a motor!!!!! And the exact price of those contents!!
I was stumped, surely not.
I wasn’t sure, but we were men looking for a solution, and the dulcet tones of the 2 stroke phuutt phutting its way through the fjords of Patagonia depended on our nerve and skill as negotiators. In short we were desperate and would try anything.
Twelve a.m on the 17th cue fistful of dollars soundtrack, Marcello and I roll in with the big guns. A scrap of paper I had quickly knocked up complete with Zephyrus watermark, the coffee cup ring stains resembling something of the Olympic flag on a bad day.
Printed below the olympic rings were random boat bits and a list of made up prices. We were hung over and the lamas were in full force, we couldn’t fail…… My thoughts? None, I was calm and Zen the seagull was already mine! And if you believe that!
Mirrors and I greeted one another, horns were locked, there was no going back.
Mirrors first “Buenos Dias senor”
“Buenos dias para usted senor”…so far so good
“You have a list of contents for me complete with prices”
So what is in the box?
Deep breath and begin “errrm some rope la corda” I’m going to jail!!!
“And the cost”
Bloody hell “errrr fifty dollars.”
“Que mas” “What else” (told you I cold speak Spanish)
“Errr some winches”
“Really” Bloody hell “errrr sixty dollars”
“No! They cost so much?”
Is this guy for real….”errrrm yes about that.”
I was warming up …”ohhh a propeller; I’d like a new propeller”
This is fun “70 dollars”
His turn “what about some steel wire! That is very difficult to find in Argentina!”
You have got to be joking …”Yep steel wire 60 meters of the stuff I reckon….”
No hesitation “Oh fifty.”
“Bueno sign here.”
You are free to go……Free to go! I’ve only posted a bloody letter! Shut up shut up…..
What an incredible place I was sure I was going to feel a heavy hand as I walked towards the door but no nothing and then sweet sunlight and fresh air.
I felt like we had been through the mill and triumphed good over, well not quite evil, not even close.
Just a different kind of postal service, you can see it in royal mail now…. What do you mean a birthday card you must be barking! What do you think this is, a Post office?! Get out!
That afternoon I wound up at a dentists, between ahhhhhhs and ahhhhhhs we discovered we liked each other, that being Dentist and I, later after some more ahhhhs i was invited to Argentine Asado. Like a Bbq but serious. The fire is lit and cooking starts at midday, eating not till midnight it’s a bit of a long affair, but you get into it. .
A fine and fun evening of Argentine carnes ‘steak’ and corrdero ‘lamb’, and plenty of excellent Argentine red wine.
I met the dentist’s family his wife and children, played guitar with his brother and talked stars with his father.
As I toddled home with time to ponder the day ‘Where else and to who do such things happen’.
Or is it just the hat?
Either way I leave the final word to Marcello. ‘You know Andy, sometimes my country works in strange ways.”
Si. Pero me gusta.
Phuuutt phuutt x
So, did you have to pay duty on all the nonexistent goods you declared?
The saga may have finished, but it started with in California.
“Son.”, “Yes, dad.”, “Can you ship something for me?”, “Sure! What is it?”, “An outboard…”, “WHAT?!”
If we only knew. It was an outboard that I obtained for him. I packed it two times to reduce the size. I spent several hours trying to find a carrier. Finally, I chose the Post Office. I waited in line and the Post Master laughed at my intentions. Not everday you send an outboard to South America! I hope the damn thing runs forever!
Did Magnus Mills write this story? This is made up, right?
Felix to answer your question, the cost nill save my sanity one filp flop, a length of soldering wire, and potentialy the next five years in a south American lock up….
Greg though we have never met a feel a bond between us that crosses all continents.You have my understanding and profound sympathy. Post offices will never be the same again.
Michelle….Never Ever …..Ever let the truth get in the way of a good story. x