Lessons Learned

Jonco Marine Repair

Barra de Navidad, Mexico

A message for any boats headed to Barra de Navidad:  Beware of hiring Jonco Marine Repair.  His skills as a diesel mechanic can only be described as entirely unprofessional and grossly incompetent.
In February, 2012 our transmission failed as we sailed into the Barra lagoon.  After receiving a tow from another cruising boat we contacted Jonco as he was listed in the cruising guide and the only English-speaking mechanic we could find.  He convinced us we needed to rebuild the engine as well as the transmission due to low compression and leaking oil.  Nine months later and we were still stuck in Barra.  We had to rebuild the engine 3 times before he finally installed the correct pistons/ring set.  Each time we had to wait weeks for parts and pay extra for labor.  Eventually, we had to leave the boat for the summer at the very expensive Grand Bay Marina and then I had to fly back in late August to finally put the engine back in the boat.  I returned again in October after the hurricane season to finish the break-in. 

We agreed there would be a break-in period where the engine would be run under load for 25-50 hours as stated in the workshop manual.  This was to be followed by work to re-torque the head, change the fluids, and give the engine a final check-over.  After receiving his payment, Jonco stopped replying to phone calls and refused to perform any follow-up work.   Needless to say, this has cost us many months and thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses.  In the end, we have an engine that runs but will now need to find another mechanic to complete the job.

And, unfortunately, we were not the only victims of Jonco at the time.  A week before we broke down, s/v Three Sheets was towed in with a blown engine.  Like us, they spent many months stuck in the marina while Jonco made excuses about why the wrong parts were ordered and how much more it would costs to get it right.  Eventually, they managed to escape with a working engine but their story is eerily similar to ours.

Finding a reputable diesel mechanic in Barra is difficult.  As far as we know, Jonco is the only English-speaking mechanic in the area, which is why we chose to use his services.  In hindsight, we would have been better served to pay someone to remove the engine and truck it to Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara in search of a qualified professional.

If you break down in Barra, talk to Secondino at the marina office.  He is a very good source of information and can recommend a professional who may be able to help.  Don't expect any recommendations for Jonco from the marina or any other cruising boats you meet.  Sadly, we had to learn this lesson the hard way.
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