Monday, 26 November 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away ….. Nov 2012

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Downtown Colon, thru the taxi window – zero redeeming features and no that is not blue sky
18 – 25 November 2012: Colon, PanamaPB250004 
How many days did it rain before Noah filled his Ark???

Yes we know we are anchored in a rain forest, yes we know it is the rainy season and yes we had been told that November was the wettest month – but quite frankly we have all had enough.  This is our 6th consecutive day of almost nonstop torrential rain, this is rain like you have NEVER seen before.  Everything and everyone is wet, nearly all boats ~ old, new, sail, power, carefully maintained or neglected are fighting leaks inside, it is not a happy place to be right now. 

Today power to our dock has been off since the early hours and now the entire marinas power has gone, that includes the laundry where our washing is sitting in a machine full of water getting a good soak.  I will add it didn’t need a good soak because it was well and truly wet before it got to the laundry.  When the main power goes so does the internet connection, next will be the water supply but I don’t think we will go thirsty.

There is good news though

All the work on the engine mounts, coupling and alignment has been completed and miraculously  there was a break in the weather for a couple of hours a few days ago and we let the lines go and motored out into the bay for a test drive.  Olive the Volvo engine ran smoothly and she settled down on her engine mounts like they were a comfy old pair of slippers, long may she be happy with them! It was a huge relief especially for skipper, this has been a problem we have been managing for several years now and it was always going to be a  challenging place to take on such a big project.  All in all it has gone very well and we are nearly ready for the next cruising season.

Time to Stock Up
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PB220018So this week has been spent finally getting everything else in order, I did a run to the supermarket on the morning shuttle bus – in the pouring rain, filled the supermarket trolley to overflowing then loaded it into the shuttle bus – in the rain, got back to the marina and we loaded it into a trolley for the trip back to the boat – in a torrential downpour, so everything had to be completely dried before stowing, what fun.  I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity to buy along the way this season but it is always easier to stock and stow while tied at a dock so I will fill the lockers to the brim.

Mark has had 4 attempts at getting more diesel from the elusive fuel barge before he was finally successful yesterday.  Not great having the fuel jugs sitting at the ready in the leaking and soggy cockpit for 4 days but its an hour long job stowing them each time so unavoidable really.  No photos for you just yet of the lovely new cockpit cushions in the cockpit as the cockpit seems to have been redeployed as a paddling pool!

Getting rid of unwanted stowaways
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No, not a good advert for Barilla pasta, (maybe they should think of adding a plastic bag) must admit we do prefer to add the meat of our own choice rather than having weevils thrown in for free.  You could argue that I shouldn’t be so silly to buy pasta in a box where you can’t precheck it in the supermarket but we like this pasta and 3 out of the 5 boxes were ok.  Mustn’t just pick on the pasta though, in the past month we have bought weevils in our flour and oats,  Often while the “skippers” talk about engines and blue stuff at happy hour, the “admirals” talk about our latest weevils infestations ~ there are some weevil free boats but I think maybe they just haven’t found them yet or don’t want to own up!!  PB220038 Once on board they just seem to get into everything, basically everything we eat now is prechecked for weevils but I suspect the odd one slips through into our diet.

Thanksgiving Dinner without the dinner

Always keen for an excuse not to have to cook onboard we put our names down for the potluck American Thanksgiving dinner this week.  For $9 each the restaurant would provide the turkey and venue, and we would all bring along a potluck dish and a fun night would be had by all.  Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner last month had been a huge success so hopes were high for a good night out.  But something went horribly wrong, it seems nobody told several of the foreign boats in port what a potluck was so they came empty handed, then the turkey ran out and chaos followed.  The bar staff were totally overwhelmed by happy hour drinks orders, taking nearly ten minutes to process in the computer each drinks order, a total shambles.  The restaurant staff did finally managed to rustle up some more food but really the moment had passed.  A wee dram of our finest Balvenie Whiskey back onboard after dinner accompanied by Mark on guitar ended another soggy evening a tad more positively with Bill and Caroline off Juffa, and Andy and Sue off Spruce.

One step forward, two steps backPB250003

Yesterday Mark decided to reattach our SSB and VHF Radios, these have been unconnected during our time here to avoid damage to them in the event of a lightening strike.  Our SSB radio stopped working when we left Colombia and we had been very happy to find a radio expert in the Port at Colon who spent several hours identifying and fixing the problem before we flew back to New Zealand.  The radio was tested in his workshop and all was working however it is not receiving or transmitting now, its a major setback for us as it is how we keep in touch with all our cruising friends throughout the season.  Hopefully he may be able to get it back in working order before we leave but tomorrow is a public holiday and the days are slipping away.  We still need to get our sails back on but we really need the rain to stop for long enough.  There is a possible weather window forming at the end of the week for us to head north, we want to be ready to go if it develops.
We need to leave before we sink!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Things Starting to Come Together in Panama ….. Nov 2012

2012 Panama-001  PA310118

08 –18 November 2012

Maybe some movement at last???

21 days after ordering our new engine mounts they have finally arrived and as I sit up in the cockpit (trying to keep out of the way) Mark and Greg the Engineer are spending hour after hour trying to get the engine aligned.  Currently things don’t seem to be going too well but maybe by the time I finish typing this I will have more positive news to report.

Ticking things off “The List”

So we have spent the last three weeks doing all the other things on “the list”.  The sewing machine has been out for quite some time and we now are the proud owners of new navy cockpit squabs, they look great with the bright stripy cushions that Mum donated from her outdoor chairs while we were home.  Both the dodger and canopy have been off for routine repairs to rotted stitching & broken zippers – quite a challenge to get them dry, off, repaired, cleaned and back on in between tropical downpours.  A new cover has been made for the binnacle, a new outboard motor cover has been completed to replace the last one that I watched fly off in the San Blas and sink before I realised what it was!  I have also been removing all the upholstery covers from the saloon a couple at a time,.  Some needed a few minor stitching repairs and they were all in desperate need of cleaning.  We have washed 9 years of dirt out of them and they are now quite a different colour!!2012 Panama-001

Mark has installed all of the parts we brought back from New Zealand so we now have wind and depth instruments that work, the watermaker at last makes fresh water, the SSB Radio should go when we reconnect the aerial, our headsail furling drum now opens and closes at ease.  We have sanded back and revarnished our shower room floor, everything is looking tip top.  In addition we have replaced our anchor chain, our rusty old 100 metres was spirited away in the dark by one of the night security guards – bound for his village in the San Blas.  Great that someone will have use for it.

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Time out to Eat, Drink & Be Merry

All the “broken boats” around us are slowly getting fixed too but there are new arrivals with woes to tell all the time – this boating is a very “fluid situation”.  On the social front things have livened up considerably with more Brit and Aussie boats turning up.  Last nights Whole Pig Bar-b-que was accompanied by live entertainment provided by the “Shelter Belters”, led by Steve off Liward and a guest performance on flute by our British friend Sue off Spruce , more accustomed to playing in an orchestra than to a Status Quo number.


Sue’s husband Andy and Mark both seemed to know some ancient – well 1970’s - dance action for this particular song and certainly entertained the crowd (our American friends ~ and I ~ looked on in total amazement!!).  The rain stayed away and a great night was had by all.  

We could think of worse places to lose several weeks

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Steamy & Soggy in Shelter Bay, Panama ….. Nov 2012

24 Oct - PB06013406 Nov 2012

It’s the Rainy Season & We are Parked in a Rain Forest

Just because we are finally back in the water and floating doesn’t actually mean that we are able to go anywhere!  The weather certainly hasn’t inspired us to want to throw off the lines and venture back out to the San Blas.  We had been warned that October and November were the two wettest months, October wasn’t actually too bad, but November is off to a soggy start.  The lightening storms still come and go with almost daily regularity, although most of the time I can count “1alligator”  between the thunder and the lightening.  There was an exception while the riots were on in Colon,PA310114 one morning we had three consecutive booms and strikes within seconds and I actually considered that maybe we were under fire.  I thought briefly that living in the Gaza Strip must be like this, but luckily it wasn’t a rocket launched missile attack,  just another storm cell passing by.

 Back in the water ….. but

After we  “splashed” we needed to wait for a few days for Balvenie to settle back into her floating position before the shaft could be attached and the engine aligned.  PA310124This was still during our “gremlin” month of October so we were expecting there may be the odd hiccup.  We were not to be disappointed, trusty Olive our Volvo TMD31 engine is now waiting on a set of 4 shiny new engine mounts for her 21st birthday, isn’t she lucky.  Unfortunately they are coming from a company that was affected by Hurricane Sandy so nothing is happening at speed.  

We are not alone

Many cruisers here are undertaking some quite big boat projects ~ mini & major refits, repairs and replacements of canvas work, total repaints – yes in the rainy season – many are doing routine maintenance before the next cruising season, some are just waiting for the next thing to break.  So it’s stories like those below from our fellow marina dwellers told over $1 beers at happy hour that keep us all amused  PA300110

*Boat on our dock has new dinghy delivered from USA, it’s not the size he ordered, it’s too small – back it goes but when will the right one arrive?

*Neighbour has new chart plotter (for navigation) delivered.  He installs it and it’s all working however it will not read the boats position from the GPS, neither will the AIS (Ship Identifier) function work.  After much dialogue with the manufacturer he now finds out that this particular chart plotter is not compatible with his existing GPS and AIS systems. Whoops!

*Newly arrived Australian yacht has a new fridge delivered, all goes well and they install it and turn it on, but it won’t turn itself off.  They watch in dismay as it gobbles up precious amps from their batteries and starts freezing everything in sight.  Happily after many hours, a few repairs and some seriously cold beers that one as been solved . PA310115

*Our neighbours engine just won’t turn over.  Having eliminated nearly everything else they order new injectors from the USA.  Another few $100 goes to FedEx and the parts arrived and are fitted.  But their engine is still not starting – they’re not going anywhere just yet either! 

  • *A Superyachts top deck hot tub sprung a serious leak and it flooded right through the boat to the lower decks.  That’s what you get for having a hot tub, must admit none of us felt too sorry for them, but we did feel sorry for the crew who had to clean it all up.PA310113 

*But 1st prize goes to British cat Juffa  who we met back in the Canaries.  They arrived yesterday with a broken throttle cable and a few other “normal” hiccups plus what we have nicknamed their “well baked stuffed Apple”.  While at anchor a few nights ago they had a lightening storm so Caroline put their almost new Apple Computer into the oven (I have to add that their previous almost new Apple fell into Rabat marina in Morocco and drowned).  For those of you unfamiliar with this ‘oven’ practice, rumour has it that electronics have a far less chance of being affected by a lightening strike if in a metal box, so most of us cruisers, rightly or wrongly, tend to fill our ovens and microwaves with laptops, phones, handheld GPS’s, VHF radios – well all manor of things.  It is, however, a very good idea to remove these gadgets before you turn on the oven.  Sadly in this instance Caroline didn’t spot the computer and ended up with a melted, burnt and seriously stuffed Apple instead.  Not a good thing at all.

While never wanting to wish misfortune on anyone, it is very therapeutic listening to everyone else’s woes, this is just part of the cruising lifestyle, it’s the way it happens.  We have a fun bunch of people here to share all our ups and downs with.  Things might be a little soggy for now (but much cooler), but we know that Balvenie will soon be fixed and the sun will shine again.

Que sera sera – Whatever will be, will be

Saturday, 3 November 2012

At Last It’s Splash Time! ….. Oct 2012

PA21008016 – 23 October 2012

Still in Panama Playing the Waiting Game

There were a few small jobs to do on the boat while up on the hard as we waited for the prop to come back from Washington, but all in all it was just a patience game - waiting for its arrival and waiting for Marks foot to heal.  Finally the prop was despatched from PYI Inc in Washington and we watched its daily progress via the FedEx Online Tracking facility.  Then we checked its progress and it happily reported that the item had been delivered – what? where?  when? eek!!!   A quick trip by me along to the office (Skipper still boat bound) and missing prop located sitting on the floor.  Would it have been so hard for one of the countless staff to bring it along to us I wondered?  As I went to pick it up they told me how heavy it was, (yes we know we paid the 19 kg freight bill!!!), they stayed sat behind their desks and didn’t even offer to open the door for me – I will just add here that “they” are 2 strong and healthy young men in their 20’s. Once back at the boat we tied it all up securely and Mark hoisted it onboard – our prop back at last.

No - How can this be????

Sadly our elation did not last long.  As Mark started unpacking he took out the two end locking nuts, we had sent our old one for them to replica (as the first one they sent was too big). He looked at it, I looked at it and we both agreed that the thread did not look big enough.  So down the ladder I went and it was clear immediately that the new locking nut was not going to fit our shaft. I didn’t have to say anything to Mark to confirm his fears, one look was enough.  So we unpacked everything else then it was back down the ladder for me to check the rest of the parts.  The hub had been remade to the correct size BUT the insert for the keyway that holds it in place on the shaft had not been cut deeply enough, (and yes – PYI did have our old one to compare and measure against).  The hub would not fit with the keyway inserted, however it did fit without the key PA210078– not much use though.  So try and imagine me, down under the boat with all the parts, trying desperately to make them fit together, while Mark is up on the boat, trying to lean over but unable to see anything - knowing from my deafening silence that all was definitely not well.  

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Skipper …..

It was clear that Skipper was not going to continue taking this lying down. He hobbled his way down the ladder and once again set foot on the planet after eight days perched high and dry on Balvenie.  He had to satisfy himself that while we may have got the prop back, we still weren’t going anywhere.  Just how a professional American company that has all the tools, equipment and expertise were able to send these to us without checking that they were EXACTLY the same as our previous ones amazes us.  Mark was able to tell just by looking at the locking nut that it wasn’t correct, why couldn’t they?  Another day of total disappointment, but as the nut hole needed to be made bigger and the key needed to be made smaller, maybe - just maybe, we could get them altered locally.  Keith from Lyman Morse, the onsite Yard and Haulout Management Company took on the job the next morning and set to trying to find someone in Colon who could do the work.  Of course this coincided with the weekend, but by Tuesday afternoon we had the parts back. The key fitted like a glove, but – yep you guessed it – the nut still did not fit, why was none of this surprising us any longer.PA230084

And Then the Riots Started

During this time there was a serious amount of unrest going on in Colon due to the Government wanting to sell off some occupied land.  There was civil unrest, rioting and shootings in the streets downtown, looting in many of the central Colon shops – it was not a good place to be.  The marina had stopped the twice daily bus for the cruisers to get to the local shopping centre, employees could not get to work because of road blocks, all was not well in Colon and it was spreading further throughout the country.  So it was a couple more days before the nut could be safely returned to Colon for another rethread, success at last.  Skipper was getting more mobile, his foot slowly healing and he was able to get up and down the ladder slowly.  We installed the new prop finally and it absolutely sparkles.  PA230083 Mark says it gleams like gold and for the final amount it has cost I would expect gold with a diamond in it!!  

So at last we were ready to splash but it was the weekend again!!  Then around came Monday, after 21 nights on the hard it was splash day – but no, not today.  We would need to be towed back to our berth as the engine and shaft were not yet attached.  This was because we need to wait for the boat to settle into position back in the water before the final alignment from engine to propeller is done.  But back to the tow….. we needed 2 dinghies one fore and one aft to manoeuvre us and there was only one available, there was also a serious shortage of staff as some roads were still being blocked.  After 21 nights on the hard it didn’t matter that it was going to be one more,.

We finally splashed at 9am on Tuesday – yippee!!!