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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Good News – Very Bad News – and Excellent News

Right before we left Guaymas, we finally found a 15HP 2 stroke short shaft outboard through Star Marine Center in San Carlos. Star Marine Center had their mechanic bring it to us in the Guaymas boat yard so we could attach it to our dinghy and test its tenacity and super fast planing powers with all four of us on board. Tim, our family dinghy expert, gave the thumbs up so we purchased it for 10,000 pesos – roughly $700 US. We were thrilled to find a used one… more thrilled that we didn’t have to pay $3,000US for a new one.

We had spent all our cash on-hand for the outboard and because we were preparing to leave Guaymas to sail south I needed to make a quick bank run. The HSBC bank (my favorite in Mexico) was downtown and I was too lazy to deal with finding a parking spot, or parallel parking, or walking ten blocks after parking the car. So, I drove to the nearest grocery store, Del Norte, and used the Santander ATM machine.

We have heard rumors about identity theft, stolen bank cards and lost funds when using non-bank establishment ATMs. However, this has been only hearsay. I have never actually met a cruiser in person who has had a problem. Jim and I, however, have a ‘guideline’; we go to a bank location v.s. any other ATM. But, sometimes we are lazy – like I was feeling this time.

I stuck my card in the machine, punched in my secret code while pressing my body close to the screen so that no one could decipher entry into our bank account, and waited. The ATM made lots of money giving sounds. Then, it asked me something unintelligible in Spanish. I couldn’t make out a single word of it. I tried opening the little slot that I assumed dispensed the cash. No.  I looked all over the machine, thinking that maybe there was a hidden door to dispense cash. No. The machine gave another message that I translated to mean that it “couldn’t give me money at this time” OR “you have not taken your cash we gave you”. And, I had distinctly heard the machine making cash counting sounds. I was very distressed. I had asked for almost $500US and hadn’t gotten it. Nor, had I gotten a receipt. And I wasn’t exactly sure what the machine was telling me. No bank manager at the grocery store - no one to ask.

I drove to HSBC and the bank machine there told me that I had exceeded my limit. I was sweating bullets. Maybe I had been tricked by some ATM bandito who had rigged the grocery store machine and stolen my money!

When I was able to get internet I checked our balance. All the blood drained from my face. Over $480 had definitely been deducted from our checking account. I panicked. That was two Kindle Fires I could have had! It just cost us $1,200 for our outboard instead of $700! And worse, how was I going to tell my husband?

I made a frantic Skype call to our bank after I calmed down enough to speak and explained my situation. The lady on the other end said they would look into it.

We sailed 4 days and 4 nights until we arrived in La Cruz. I had bad dreams along the way – not ever recovering that cash.

I just checked my bank info and guess what? REFUND!! A deposit was made to correct a mistake. There was no thief, no bandito, no identity theft. There was just an ATM that probably became jammed when it tried to do its job. 

Thank goodness for technical difficulties!


  1. Wow you didn't mention that the other night! Glad it worked out and thanks for the fun time aboard Hotspur, I love your boat. Sail safe.

  2. It was great to visit with you and Lauren again. Best of luck to you both and we'll stay in touch!