Published in WWDR and used with permission.
Water for Life has just finished loading another container for shipment to
Guatemala. The container is loaded with material to support our work and
donated medical equipment headed for the Ministry of Health in the Petén region, as well as for other groups who are working to make a difference in the lives of the
people in the area.
The containers we ship are the life blood of our work. We constantly need
equipment to support our drilling rigs. This means tools, compressors, generators,
pallets of Bentonite, galvanized pipe, steel well casings, pumps, PVC pipe,
stainless steel fittings, nuts and bolts, wrenches, etc, etc, EVERYTHING is
carefully weighed and cataloged.
The containers themselves are somewhat special. We use High Cube containers,
certified as suitable for ocean shipping. (I think this means they are constructed in
such a way as to sink if they should come into mishap on the voyage.) The
containers arrive and we have 2 hours to load or we will be charged for extra time.
We have never made it in two hours, but we also have never had to pay extra.
The containers are loaded right to the doors. Our crew of volunteers pack them
tight, not only to get in as much as we can but to pack them tight so the loads
within will not shift. This year there were 170 boxed of donated hospital linens
that were packed into every conceivable crevice as the heavier material was placed.
These boxes cushion everything against movement. I believe you could turn the
container upside down and it would pretty much stay the way it is inside.
The containers are carried by truck to the Port of Seattle where they are placed
aboard a very large container ship for the first part of the voyage. This year the
ship is the Conti Courage, and MSC ship. It is a large container ship. The largest of
these ships can carry up to 18000 containers on board. I am able to track the
voyage of the ship carrying our precious material as it makes its way from Seattle
to Oakland to Long Beach and then to Panama. I enjoy watching where it is daily.
Our cost for shipping from Seattle to the east coast of Guatemala is usually about
$5000 and takes about 40 days from port to port. Sometimes the cost is a little
more, but usually not less. It does not seem to matter whether or not the container
is a full weight or not. I think an empty one would cost probably as much.
After the shipping where costs and progress are known, comes the mystery of
the import process. The container sits in the port. How long? No one can predict.
For the port, the longer the better, because they charge $140 per day.
It is usually about a week, so we figure about a thousand dollars for port charges waiting for us to work out the details of the importation. We have to hire an agent to help us (probably so the bribes go smoothly).
We have learned to keep Americans away from the import process. It is cheaper that way. This container is on the way. Full of stuff we need to improve the lives of folks
who have nothing, sometimes not even a glass of clean water.
If you can spare a week or two of your life, why not come and help us? It will mean the world to them and give you a new perspective.
We have the drills. You have the skills. We have the villages. You have the time. We offer a life-changing experience for you and them.
The truck donated by Wes Loomis of Loomis Truck and Tractor was finally ready.
The frame and bed had been lengthened, rear axle moved back, the hoist was
rebuilt and mounted, a large generator strapped to the bed along with some tanks
and other items. All was ready. Now to get it to Guatemala.
We usually ship trucks from Florida or Texas and we have driven them down
across Mexico, but it is a long drive. Gary checked with our shipping agent and
learned that the port of Seattle would only handle containers, and this had to be
shipped “breakbulk cargo.” This is cargo or goods that must be loaded
individually, and not in intermodal containers nor in bulk as with oil or grain. Gary
began to contact people who might have some ideas on how to do it.
Finally, Gary was referred to an agent who had a connection to ship out of
Tacoma, Washington and eventually he was in contact with Bryan O’Dell of
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean. They are a Norwegian/Swedish shipping company
that specializes in shipping cars, trucks and heavy equipment worldwide. They
have large roll-on roll-off vessels and could ship out of Tacoma.
As it turned out, (as it often does when the Good Lord is the shipping agent) Mr.
O’Dell has been to Guatemala many times and was very interested in what Water
for Life is doing in Guatemala. He worked with his manager, the Pricing Team
and Operations and was able to elevate the request and get the WFL truck a free
ride on one of their vessels. The only charge from them would be the charge of the
“3 rd party carrier” from Panama to Guatemala. The loading of the truck in Tacoma
and shipping to their hub in Panama was 100% free of charge. What a blessing for
Water for Life and our donated truck.
Gary’s nephew, Don, drove the truck on the shake-down run from Spokane to
Graham, Washington, which is near Tacoma. They took it to Jon Hansen who is a
co-owner of Tacoma Pump and Drilling and a WFL volunteer. The truck made it
into their yard with no issues. This is a good truck!
Meanwhile, Gary and I worked on getting the paperwork together for the shipment.
There was some issue with getting the title released and properly in the name of
Water for Life. Wes Loomis took care of that. Gary had to sign a Power of
Attorney for the shipping company. I made up a document on WFL letterhead to
certify that Gary was the Vice President of WFL. Everything had to be notarized
and looking as official as possible. We have learned that the more notarizations
and seals and ribbons that can be attached to a document, the less trouble the
Guatemalan officials seem to have with them. I guess if it looks right, it is right.
The truck will be loaded onto the WW Ocean vessel Oberon and must be in-gated
to the port on Jan 14. The Oberon will leave the port of Tacoma on Jan 18. I trust
the truck will make the port and make the ship and then get through customs into
our hands and start a second life in the highland jungles of Guatemala, bringing
live and health to the folks there.
Thank you for all the good folks who made this possible. If you would like to be
part of something good, part of something that changes lives, part of something
bigger than yourself, come and join us. If you can’t come, donate so someone who
can come, will.
During my quick trip to Guatemala in October, I had a chance to check on the progress that is being made on repairing our equipment for the coming drilling season. During the season, we are continually faced with the prospects of breakdowns and the resultant delay to our drilling progress. Our drillers come to drill and when they have to stop and make repairs, it is disappointing to them and to us and to the villagers who are waiting.
To address this issue, we decided to hire someone to focus on repairs to our rigs and trucks during the off-season. After some discussion, we decided to employ Edgar Lopez. We have known Edgar for several years and have taken our machines to him for repair many times. He and his wife and family live about one hour away from Poptun toward Santa Elena. He has a small shop beside the road in the village of San Juan.
He is familiar with our work and very supportive of our efforts to help his people. One of our workers, Jon Hansen and his wife Chis, stayed with him while Jon drilled a well several years ago. While the well is one of the few on private property, when the villagers of San Juan have no water, as sometimes happens in the dry season, Edgar’s well and water is available to all. He pays the electricity for the well and allows people to get what they need.
At the end of last year drilling season, Jon had a long list of things that needed to be done to the various trucks. The list was not complete, but did have many things that needed to be addressed. Edgar and Berny had been working their way through the list all summer, and I could check on the progress they were making.
One of the rigs, the oldest one, needed several things. One of the necessary repairs was to address the severely worn bushings and shafts on the sheaves that guide the cable for raising the derrick. They were worn so much and the grooved wheels wobbled so much that there was a real danger of the cable jumping out of the groove and jamming in the pulley. It had to be fixed.
Edgar brought another of our trucks he had been working on and drove the rig to his place with Berny and I following. When we arrived, Edgar immediately began working on it. It was so hot that I could barely keep my hand on bare metal in the sun, but Edgar climbed up the mast and removed the parts. Then Berny and I took the parts and headed on up the road to Santa Elena to find a machine shop to make the repairs.
We went to one shop but it was closed and so went to another. They looked at the work and said they could have it tomorrow. Berny asked if they could please do it today and they told us to come back in four hours. That was good and we went to lunch and then off to a village nearby to check on the pump that was working there.
At about 2:30 we came back to the shop and waited a bit till the machinist was finished. The new bushings were in and the new shaft machined to the proper diameter. We paid the money, about $150 US dollars, and were on the way back to the shop so Edgar could reinstall the sheaves and get on to other projects.
One more task completed in the list to prepare for the coming season. We hope we will be able to put our volunteers to work drilling immediately when they come and not be delayed by having to make repairs. If you have an interest, contact us. We can put you to work. Perhaps on our new rotary rig or maybe on the old cable rig. It will be up and working when you get there.
Used with permission, World Wide Drilling Resource
Berny Leonardo and I were on the way back from Santa Elena on Friday morning. We went to have a meeting with the president of the church organization who owns the land where our facilities are located. We have a good relationship with them and after a good conversation we headed back to the shop which was about 2 hours away.
There are stretches of the highway south of Santa Elena which are straight, the road is good and there are no tumulos (speed bumps). This is a normal sized two-lane road with shoulders a few feet wide on either side. Speeds of 60 or more are entirely reasonable despite the speed limit signs. Trucks, especially the big ones, find the speed limits as merely suggestions I think. In short, everyone is driving as fast as they dare. There are also a few motorcycles, some fast and some slow and occasionally one with several people on it. I have seen a family of five on a small motorcycle and no one takes much notice of it.
Berny was driving the crew cab Mitsubishi pickup and we were going about 60. There was a large truck was coming the other way at probably the same speed. When the truck passed, the gust of the wind from the truck blew the hood open. I was talking to Gary on the cell phone when this happened.
In an instant we could not see anything and there were a bits of glass flying about.
When the hood opened, I could not see anything, but Berny, who is fairly short, was able to scoot down and see under the hood through broken windshield. He guided us safely off the road onto the shoulder. We got out and pulled the hood down to survey the damage. The hood was bent where it folded back and the roof of the cab had a dent in it from the hood. The windshield was shattered and the wipers twisted. We were able to find a couple of pieces of wire and rope to tie the hood down and we continued on our way. Driving a bit more slowly now.
About 20 minutes down the road, we came to a mechanic shop beside the road owned by our friend Edgar. We drilled a well in his yard that serves his small community when the main source for the village goes dry. He was not working on anything much and was able to drop his job and help us.
We found the whole latch mechanism was ripped off. It had been loose for a while and the areas around the bolts had work-hardened and become brittle.
Edgar was able to weld the latch back into place, straighten the hood hinges so the hood closed properly. It took him about 2 hours and we were ready to go.
As we came into Poptun, I asked Berny to pull into the shop where they might have a windshield. Berny said it would probably have to be ordered from Guatemala City, but I said we ought to get it ordered then. The folks at the shop checked and sure enough they had the one we needed. They offered to install it right then for a total of 140 US dollars.
I told them to go ahead and do it. They got right onto it and in about another hour we had a brand-new windshield. I also bought two new wiper blades. Good as new. Well almost, if you don’t count the dents.
Later I found out that several folks had noticed the loose hood, but no one had really checked it out to see what was wrong. Nothing had ever happened before. Lesson learned. Deferred maintenance is not maintenance at all.
Getting the mud rotary through customs took a month but some of the
longer time was expected because of the holidays around Christmas and
New Years. Our volunteer cable driller from Ohio had offered to haul
the rotary from Iowa to the port in Florida but had some heart issues
which postponed the transport. We're hoping he can come drill but he
still doesn't have the Doctor's clearance. Another driller has leukemia
but is in Guatemala. He will be here Tuesday to help with some pump
work then cut the box end off a drill stem and weld on a new box end.
Another driller just had hiatyl hernia surgery and he's hoping he can
still come. The devil has been jabbing us and we appreciate your
We have met our goal of getting the rotary here and determining the best
approach for it's continued work here. An air compressor will be
necessary and a system to drill a larger surface hole to enable us to
install a temporary 6" pvc or steel casing. In 3 of the wells the
drilling fluid came up the hole to usually between 6' and 15' then then
fluid and cuttings went horizontally. We were able to clean the hole
sufficiently to go deeper and not get stuck. The pdc bit is awesome and
really makes hole rapidly in this limestone.
4 of the wells were in very remote villages where the crew sometimes
stayed overnight, 1 well was at a health clinic at the edge of a larger
town, and the last one was in a little barrio with no water source at
the edge of Poptun. The wells were 60' - 140' with plenty of water.
This 8 working days represent 8 weeks of cable tool drilling. We're now
in the process of cleaning the wells by pumping, then we'll set hand
pumps in all except the clinic well which will get a submersible.
We appreciate your support and we're accomplishing things we could not
have otherwise done: The diesel tender truck with 20' flatbed is on
it's way from Tacoma presently. We're able to hire two local men to
learn pumps and drilling. We believe we have 2 Godly men and we are
blessed by that. We are able to replace all 6 tires on the drill one by
one. They didn't look too bad but are so old they're really checked and
weak. The first one blew as we drove through the river going to the
first village. We've put steel shelving in the North storage container
which will prevent those termites from eating our shelving. We've
leveled a spot for another container and it may be here this week. We
purchased some new equipment for producing bushings for the hand pumps
and Larry is doing an excellent job there. We purchased 1,000' of 250
psi, 4" pvc and that's really saved a lot of time and hassle. Usually
we buy 5 or 10 pieces at a time. I know there's more but that's what I
We appreciate you!
Gary, Angie, & WFL
October 19 dawned clear and bright and cool. The temperature is was really warm for this time of year in Spokane. This was the day Water for Life loaded the container for shipment to Guatemala. There had been a slight mix-up as to the date, but we had our volunteers ready on the Friday morning. The truck driver had been instructed to go to Lincoln Blvd in the valley, but he got in contact with us and we corrected the instructions to come to Lincoln road. He arrived about 10:15 am.
Without any delay, the workers began loading the pallets of materials for shipment. Over the years, we have gotten better about having things packed in pallets and staged for the loading, and all went smoothly. There were no glitches or problems. Rod Bartholomew operated the forklift and several men inside the container with a pallet jack made fairly quick work of the first part of the loading.
Our driver this year, Terry Ottman of Moses Lake Washington, was interested in what we are doing and I talked to him awhile about our project and gave him some details and insight into the varied mix of material being placed in the container. He was happy to be helping to do something for folks who do not have access to clean water. Being able to converse with the driver is a treat for us. Often the drivers are from other countries and speak very little, if any English. Also, we have had concerns about the driver’s ability to drive as we have watched them try repeatedly to position the truck at the loading dock or the gate to the shop. Not this year. Terry was obviously very skilled with the truck and had no issue following our directions and placing the trailer precisely where we needed it to be.
The loading took about 3 hours. The shipping company allows two hours, but three hours is about the usual time it takes. Handling the casing pipe and the thousands of feet of galvanized and plastic pipe takes a little while because each pipe must be handled by hand and placed securely in the container.
Finally, all was completed and the doors closed and the seal attached. Terry was confident he could make it to the dock in Seattle by Saturday and we would not miss the in-gate deadline for making the ship. The ship, MSC ANZU, was at that moment, heading for Oakland harbor for loading containers bound for Seattle. There was plenty of time, but there was also time for things to go wrong. Ships get delayed. Trucks can be delayed. Things happen. Once the cargo is out of our hands, issues can occur which can throw our plans completely askew.
We trust the Good Lord as our shipping agent and we all bowed our heads and sent up a prayer for safety for Terry and for our precious cargo, bound for the highland jungle of Guatemala. Thank you to all our donors and friends.
I visited with Wes who owns a truck and equipment dealership in Lind, WA
when we decided to shop for a diesel truck with air brakes and 20'
flatbed. He was especially interested that WFL is a faith based
ministry. Yesterday he told me they have a very good truck (mechanical,
not electronic) that has a 16' flatbed. They will lengthen the frame and
put a 20' on it after the Fall planting rush. He wants to gift it to
us. With all he's doing he may need a little money.
God is to be praised,
Jay Gallagher just returned from a visit to Guatemala as a volunteer for Water for Life. He came down for about 3 weeks and stayed very busy with many jobs that need doing at the shop and in the field. Jay comes from Belle, Missouri where he operates Custom Pump and Well Drilling.
He became interested in Water for Life as a result of an on-line forum sponsored by the National Ground Water Association and reading about us in this journal and visiting our booth at NGWA conventions. This was his third trip as one of our volunteers. Each visit has been a little bit longer as he has found more and more things where his talents can be useful.
Jay is an excellent detail man and has done a lot of pump repair and refurbishment in villages where the pumps have failed or are failing. He maintains a log of what he has done and helps us keep track of jobs and sites that need attention. This is a never-ending task as we drill more wells. We now are at 113.
I asked Jay for some observations from this year’s season. He said that there were lots of unexpected repairs and problems, but one by one, each one was dealt with and the whole project moved forward. Unusual things happened. He blew out a tire on one of the Ford trucks and the truck caught fire, but it happened right in front of a big truck shop where help was available. The tire blew and caught fire because a brake stayed engaged. Jay got the truck towed and a few hours and a new brake job later, he was back on the road again.
He met some nice folks in Rio Dulce who operate Casa Guatemala. This is a school for kids with about 200 to 300 people living on site. The school is on the river and can be reached only by boat. They do not have grid power and can use a generator for only about 90 minutes each day. All the rest of the power is solar. Jay was able to survey their water system and give them some advice and gave them another pump to hold in reserve for future problems. Water for Life made a good friend in Rio Dulce.
Through Jay, Greg Evans of Lefty’s Drill Service of Crane, Missouri had donated a used pump hoist. During his spare time, Jay managed to get the hoist installed on the Ford truck and started sorting the hydraulic lines out. This second pump service truck will be a real blessing to us. The other truck is a cab-over Isuzu. It is good for highway use, but for many of the roads, it is simply not suitable.
Jay is planning on coming again next year and perhaps will extend the time he is with us. He sees the need and enjoys making a difference in the lives of people who otherwise would not have access to clean water. He extends the invitation to others to come and help. There is a lot to do, the food is good, the people are friendly, the work is hard, but it is very rewarding.