Monday, 22 October 2012

Maintenance or Mishap Month ….. Oct 2012

PA160059 09 – 15 October 2012

The Saga continues

With the return to Washington of our incorrect new MaxProp, along with vital parts of our existing propeller we were feeling well and truly high and dry.  While I read a borrowed guide book on Panama eagerly searching for ideas for a mini sanity break either into the jungle or up to the highlands, Mark decided to proceed with a couple of “5 minute jobs”.    I knew it wouldn’t be a 5 minute job, they NEVER are, but changing the impellor on the raw water pump, especially while out of the water is straightforward enough – usually.  Off the cover came, the impellor was prised out and checked, it didn’t need changing so it was put back in, the water pump cover went back on, the screws went back in and off snapped not one but two off them – what!

Although our tool collection has grown significantly over the last 9 years we did not have the required gadgets to repair this.  PA160062 However the onsite workshop did so it was just another “5 minute job” to take the pump off the engine block and drop it down to the workshop.  It was all repaired and returned to us promptly the next morning, so while I was off grocery shopping, skipper reattached the pump to the block – not so easy to do alone as it needs some help with alignment, but he ‘carried on regardless’- big mistake - and that was when one of the big bolts became cross threaded and sheared off….bugger!!  He was not in the best of humour when I returned laden with groceries. There was skipper sitting on the saloon floor… knee deep in sweat and grease…surrounded by pieces of pump and other engine bits…..  oh dear.  Another trip back to the workshop and yes they could source another bolt and retap the thread. Oh well we weren’t in a hurry as the prop had only just landed in Washington.  Maybe we really could escape for a minibreak??PA120058

Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse

The afternoon brought torrential rain and thunderstorms, I retreated to the cool of the cruisers lounge while Mark went to the gym – to let off some steam!!!  Unfortunately a 25 pound dumbell somehow got knocked off the end of a weight bar instead, and landed dead centre on the top of Marks right foot.  He somehow managed to get back the 200 or so metres to the boat in driving rain and dodging lightening strikes, climbed the ladder then grabbed some ice before he collapsed in a heap of excruciating pain.  Meanwhile I was enjoying the cool calmness of the cruisers lounge watching the storm unfold around us.  When I eventually returned I found Mark “flat out” - beaten, bruised and bleeding looking somewhat worse for wear, but he had successfully made his way to the liquor cabinet for a medicinal rum or two.  IMG_0344

So the minibreak will be on Balvenie it seems, as we wait for the return of the MaxProp “Take II” and for some signs of improvement to Marks foot, he is currently very immobile and Balvenie bound.  Excursion plans are on hold, another reason for this is our lack of guide book. While home we ordered a Lonely Planet Central America online 18 days before our departure, it never arrived before we left so I asked my sister Denise to post it onto the Marina address when it eventually arrived in NZ.  So I have been going up to office to see if it’s in, eagerly awaiting its arrival, and they have been rather vague up there regarding the post and where it gets put.  Now I have finally ascertained that post never gets delivered here, their address is for courier deliveries only, the mailed post gets left at the Post Office in ColonP9250030 (where one must don a bullet proof vest and helmet to get in and out alive) and gets collected by the marina a couple of times A YEAR!!!!!  I actually wondered if they were filming a modern day version of Candid Camera and I had the lead role.

Oh! .... and then there was the incident of being debited for US$500.00 from the Supermarket ATM  that failed to spit out any money, happy to say that one has been resolved.  I probably forgot to mention too that when the propeller shaft got pulled out, the flexible coupling that sits between the shaft and transmission was fractured in a couple of places and there is no replacement in Panama so we are looking further afield.   

All in all ….. it really hasn’t been a good week

Thursday, 11 October 2012

It’s Not Easy on the Hard ….. Oct 2012

2012 Panama2012 Panama
Our (old) Maxprop in various stages of cleanup, certainly looked the worse for wear after 10 weeks idle in the marina, but skipper got it looking nearly as good as new again

04 – 08 October 2012

Just how hard does this need to be??
We booked our haul out for a week on the hard, believe me that is really quite long enough to be perched up above dry ground, climbing up and down a ladder, listening to all the work going on around us in the yard (but to be fair there are great bird and insect sounds too), and that’s without even mentioning the fact that you are obviously not plumbed into sewerage and waste water and we are even closer to the jungle and first port of call for the bugs to attack.  It’s a time of plenty of exercise, lots of mess, constant upheaval and frayed tempers; this is NOT a job we look forward to.

Normally a week is more than enough - the bottom gets water blasted and scraped, then it’s sanded, any areas that need filling (hey sometimes we hit things!!!) are filled with epoxy, sanded and primed, the masking tape goes on around the waterline, we roll on the first coat of antifoul, then the second coat, the masking tape comes off and presto, we’re all done.  Our record time was 3 nights out in Darwin when we had to work our liftout with the tides, now that one was a bit of a push.  The week was supposed to give us plenty of time for our extra jobs too – hmmmm …….. supposed to.

PA040048 Prop problems …..
As I mentioned on the last blog update for quite some time, years in fact, we have had a vibration when motoring in high revs.  When Mark greased the prop the vibration would go away for a while but it is now at the point that the greasing only lasts a very short time and it vibrates even in quite low revs now.  So a new Maxprop was ordered, couriered in and had arrived before we hauled. 

It seemed a very sensible idea to replace the cutlass bearing also while we had the prop off.  It’s been on since we bought Balvenie so it was time.  However the bearing was very firmly lodged between the strut and the shaft and just wasn’t going anywhere.  So the next step was to remove the shaft, now this was starting to get way more serious and professional help was enlisted.
PA030043After much pulling, turning, twisting, lubricating, banging, sweating and swearing – not to mention a scar left in the rudder where the shaft had to “go by”, the shaft was removed, the cutlass bearing changed and it was back on so quickly that I didn’t even have time to climb the ladder, grab the camera and get back down before the shaft was reinstalled.  I thought better than to ask them to pull it out again for the photo!!!!  It had been a very long and hard day, and things were about to get much worse.

Time to play “Spot the Difference”
When we ordered the new propeller we had to specify the shaft size and taper.  Mark knew the shaft size but rechecked by measuring it inside the boat (remember there is a crocodile in the marina so I was not letting him in the water!).  He then read through all our existing paperwork onboard from the existing Maxprop and everything lead him to believe we had a standard SAE 1:16 taper (whatever that is!!).  However it transpires that we are very special and have quite a unique taper, now isn’t that nice.

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Basically this means that the new hub that holds the rest of the prop onto the shaft is way too big, it’s also a little longer and the nut that holds everything in place at the end of the shaft is too big and has a different thread – all a big mess really. P9250031 PYI Inc in Washington who we bought the prop from are being very helpful and we have shipped the lot back (as it all has to be rebalanced) as well as the pieces of our old prop they need to duplicate.  That all weighed 16 kilos, (think hundreds $$$ for air freighting!!!)

Meanwhile we have done the anti fouling, we bought Ameron ABC4  which is the thickest consistency of any type of paint we have ever seen but should not be thinned unless being sprayed on.  It was an absolute nightmare to work with and we are extremely disappointed with the end result.  We may change our opinion on it if it works very well as an anti foul however the finish was so rough we tend to think it will attract all the little nasties as they will have something to hold on to.

This has not been a good week and unfortunately each day is bringing new challenges that we could well do without.  Think it’s time for me to have another sanity break and go spot some more monkeys – when the latest thunder storm stops!!!
It truly is a hard life on the hard!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Up, Up and Away ….. Oct 2012

PA010001 01 – 04 October 2012

We have set aside October as “Maintenance Month” (yuk!!!), getting Balvenie ready  for another cruising season.  We have quite a bit to do so have decided to haul out here at Shelter Bay Marina and get things underway.  We have been having vibrations while motoring in high revs for a few years now and after much discussion, debate and research have decided to replace our existing 21 year old Maxprop propeller with a new Maxprop.  This has been a major decision as these run into the thousands and we have to get it air freighted from Washington.

So the prop was ordered, the lift out booked and around came 01 October.  The morning was clear and still,  just the ideal conditions for leaving our berth and motoring around to the haul out dock.  Things didn’t get off to such a good start though when we buried our keel in the muddy marina bottom as we were reversing out of our fairway.  Just a minor hiccup and after a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing skipper had us floating again. 
Follow the pictures to see what hauling out is like – for all of you boaties out there you’ll know that feeling when the slings tighten and your pride and glory gets hoisted up and then dangles in mid air! – it doesn’t seem to get any less stressful even when you’ve done it a few times.
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Its the first time we have had anyone dive on the boat to make sure the slings go in the right spot, (this is our 6th haul out) rather brave we think as there is a resident crocodile in the marina, we saw it one evening and it is big enough to be taken seriously. Maybe Victor feeds the croc so its never hungry!!

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Once lifted we just hung around in the slings while the bottom was given a scrape to get the worst of the barnacles off and then water blasted to remove the slime and any crustacean still hanging on.  Then it was time for a drive across the yard to our “patch” for the next week.

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All the supports are put in place under the hull and Balvenie is made secure before the slings are lowered and the travel lift drives away.
Definitely time for a coffee!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Passing through Panama City ….. Sept 2012

P9170018 16 – 18 September 2012

Just Passing through

With a late afternoon arrival into Panama City we decided to stay a couple of nights and explore what there was on offer in the city of Panama on the Pacific Coast.  We unintentionally ended up in a rather upmarket taxi from the airport for US$28 – we were happy as it was clean and comfy with air con, and we speed down the freeway towards downtown as daylight faded and another tropical deluge fell from the sky, slightly cooling down the steamy temperature. 

P9170029Lost in Translation

We had prebooked at Hotel Milan, having had it recommended by cruiser friends.  At a cash  price of US$65 a night it was a large room, had a window that opened, air con that worked and was clean and quiet – and as it was just down the road from the Hilton we presumed the neighbourhood would be ok.  

When I asked the receptionist if she could show us where we were on a map we found it very amusing when she brought out a map of Central America and put a ring around Panama City!, great so we did get off the plane in the right country then!!!  She seemed to think it odd when I turned the map over and asked if she could show us on the city street map where the hotel was -  we got there, eventually.  Then Mark asked the porter if there was a bar/cafe nearby, he told us the adjoining cafe was closed Sunday nights, there was nothing else near but we could buy cold drinks at a nearby Chinese supermarket.  Good thing we weren’t hungry we thought!  So we dropped our bags and set off for a walk before it got too late.

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Less than a minute from the hotel we passed a French Restaurant, then a bar/burger joint, closely followed by a pizza cafe, a Greek restaurant and a huge Panamanian restaurant.  Has our Spanish has lapsed so badly during our time home that everything just got “lost in translation”!!

Exploring El Casco Antiguo

After a jetlagged sleep, Monday morning dawned a rather gloomy picture, not so good for taking photos, but certainly a cooler option for exploring.  We walked for a while then hopped in a cab (they are $3 for a trip around town) out to El Casco Antiguo.


The old walled city is sited on a promontory, which made it slightly easier to defend in the good old days of pirate attacks which abounded in these parts.   After Panama gained independence from Colombia in 1903 many of the administrative offices were relocated and the area started to rapidly decline, many buildings today are still in a state of total disrepair.  However it has been declared a World Heritage site and is currently undergoing extensive renovations –  they hope for it to become a rival to Cartagena in Colombia.P9170023 

We strolled the streets, first passing through the grounds of the Presidential Palace (having cleared through security), the building was one of the finest we saw and gives some indication of what an attractive old town this will become when work has moved on a little more.  But for now amongst the plazas and churches were dug up roads overflowing with yellow helmeted workmen,.  Scaffolding and ladders adorned the footpaths instead of sidewalk cafes and mola stalls.  Totally decrepit buildings are a plenty, beautifully renovated ones are still few and far between .   El Casco Antiguo is certainly a project underway, and even once the buildings are reborn to their former glory there will be an urgent need to repopulate the area to bring back that buzz of an old town.  It will need the little corner vendors selling the likes of freshly squeezed lime juice or mangoes so good you can smell them a block away; small shops bulging with all those goodies that these neighbourhoods need; locals sitting under the shade of the trees in the plazas gossiping away about the days goings on; street sellers hawking their wares; souvenir stalls displaying a vibrant range of colourful molas; smells of freshly roasted coffee and just baked empanadas wafting out of neighbourhood cafes; funky bars and restaurants occupying most corners – then the life will come back and El Casco Antiguo will thrive.  Lets hope we see at least some of these next time we visit.  


We walked back along the Costa Cintra Walkway (coastal belt)which is a green belt area running along the harbour front.  For some reason someone decided a 7 foot tall concrete wall might be a good idea between the walkway and water, they did paint it blue, but the view just wasn’t quite the same!!  (see it in the photo) Further along the wharf and fish market area did show us an insight into life in Panama City, the blending of the old ways and the new.

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Next morning it was an early departure from the hotel and a $5 cab ride in heavy rain to the Albrook Bus Terminal on the outskirts of town.   We bordered the express bus bound for Colon, departed at 8am, arrived Colon around 9.30am, caught the first cab we could find to Quatro Altos where we stocked up on a few essential groceries then awaited the 11.15am shuttle bus to Shelter Bay Marina.  By 12 noon we were back on Balvenie .

Home is where the boat is, and it was nice to get home!