Photo: It's either Daisy or Duke...
Nellie, our ships cat, squealed then squirmed when the Mexican veterinary stuck the needle into her thin bony leg. He was trying to draw a blood sample, by now he had tried several times and still kept missing the vein. I had Nellie's blood all over my own legs and soaked into my shorts.
"Ahh, it eez a problem," he said in broken Mexican English. "Usually, I draw ze blood only from big tigers, their legs are much bigger." Which was true, Gonzalo was the resident veterinary for the Paradise Village zoo and their two full-grown Bengali tigers, who were called, we were told by Gonzalo, Daisy and Duke. We had approached Gonzalo because every other vet in Mexico had raised their hands in horror when we asked for blood samples to be sent to the 'Centro Nacional de Servicios de Diagnóstico en Salud Animal (CENASA)' test facility in Mexico City, the only facility in the whole of Central America approved by both the UK and the EU for testing imported animals for rabies. If we didn't get this crucial test for antibodies done, and the all-important certificate in three languages issued, then Nellie couldn't travel with us back to England. Well, she could, but she would then have to go into three months quarantine... at sixty quid a night.
On around the twentieth attempt or so, Gonzalo got some blood, quite a lot of it in fact. Looking at the large amount he had in his large plastic syringe plus the oodles of blood on my legs, shorts and in Sänna's
cockpit, I guessed there couldn't be much blood left inside Nellie given her smallish size - she was little more than a kitten. Sure enough, when she let out her final squeal and I let her go, she wobbled, then collapsed in a heap.
"Ahh, you will find her better soon, twenty-one hours maybe," said Gonzalo. "Give ze kato lots of food."
It was now up to Gonzalo to send the sample with all the paperwork to CENASA in Mexico City, he had done this many times before because every month he had to send tiger blood to the same place, that's why we had approached him in desperation. "She eez so little, I hope she has some blood left inside," he said with a worried look.
So we had to wait in Paradise Marina for around one more week for the certificate we desperately needed. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad place to be, a luxury resort with its very own zoo and we'd already made good friends. Except that we really needed to be on our way south, Hurricane Martha was heading inexorably our way. The date of the verification certificate was crucial, it had to be more than three months from her original rabies vaccination in England to ensure the rabies antibodies in her blood were present and not less than three months before she could fly home to England. The certificate was delivered back to Paradise Village by DHL in only eight days... but poor Gonzalo had put on the wrong date. Well, not the wrong date exactly, it was transposed in the American style with month first, then day. Marie checked with the Animal Import Centre in Heathrow, it was unacceptable, Nellie would have to go into quarantine.
"It eez not a problem," said Gonzalo, "I will talk to zem, I know zem well, zey will make a new certificate." But we have to be out of Mexico by next week, my Mexican visa expires, I explained to Gonzalo. We had planned to be south in Chiapas, on the Mexican border with Guatemala. "Don't worry," said Gonzalo, "I will get zem to send it to the harbour there. It will be waiting for you, it will be there before you are."
So we left Paradise Village, we said goodbye to Tom & Gail onboard Impossible Dream
, Eric & Ana on Dances With Winds
and mad-cap Gagi & Ruddi on Prairie Fox
to head south. We made for Manzanillo, anchored behind the delightful island of Ixtapia, then to Acapulco and then to Bahías Del Hualtulco before attempting the infamous gale-force winds of the Gulf of Tehuantepec - where we got well and truly hammered. Nellie tried to jump overboard.
When we tied up in Chiapas, the first thing we asked the harbourmaster there was whether Nellie's rabies certificate had arrived - which it had. But only a photocopy, not the original that Heathrow needed. Nellie, it seemed heartbreakingly, would have to go into quarantine...
First, she would have to survive our trials and tribulations in El Salvador...
Please visit our SV Sänna website for more details of our circumnavigation voyage from the UK. Also at www.facebook.com/SV.Sanna. Like our Facebook page if you'd like to receive more news about our sail adventure. You can contact us here.
Read more about the mishaps and mayhem of Nellie, The Ship's Cat