If yacht maintenance bores you – better wait for the next post. This one is wholly about the M thing!
6-11.10.16 – So here I am, on the hard in shelter Bay marina; I have a long list of maintenance projects… Hey, doesn’t that sound familiar? Hasn’t the boat been in Bocas for four and a half months with basically the same list? Here are two lessons learnt long time ago and now stressing their importance one more time: A. You cannot do boat maintenance by remote control, especially in places like Panama. You have to be in place and remind the workmen of your boat’s existence. B. Some mechanics or electricians will say they will import parts for you; they never do. They are not like the manufacturer’s agents, they are “on the road” working guys, sometimes without sufficient credit to shop online. The best option is to have them give you the part’s name and number and import the stuff yourself.
So where do we stand now? Main item is the Engine; Jeff did prepare the drive parts I had bought for installation. The fact that I gave Edwin, the yard manager, my ETA and my need for a mechanic did not have any operational meaning. The search for one started only after my haul-out. Greg, who did a lot of work for me last November, replacing the drives diaphragms and whom I met by chance near the restaurant, showed interest in the project:” I’ll come by tomorrow 0900 and take a look”. Two days later I practically snatched him from the same spot and had him come to the boat.
After reviewing the job he let me understand that the earliest he would be able to come would be sometime next week. Andy Anderson, another mechanic, promised to come Thursday, a full week after my arrival here. Let’s see that he does. Every time the boat is on the hard I change drive oil. When I drained the oil from the port drive it showed emulsion; I would need the replace the oil seals on the drives. Are parts available at Tesa, the local Yanmar agent? We’ll see tomorrow. If I would have to import them from the States it would mean another week to ten days out of the water.
But not all is grim; the marina guys are working on the hulls preparing the boat for painting. I was anxious about the ingress of sea-water into the forward crash box on the starboard hull every time the boat was sailed hard. With the boat out of the water I could see cracks on the bottom, going from the bows aft for about a meter and a half on both hulls. (the white and gray smudges are barnacles remains). At the end of 2013 the bows and parts of the port hull were repaired extensively; now she needs some more treatment.
The yard’s fiberglass specialist, Ramon, was quick (perhaps too much so) to effect the repair. On Saturday I went to town for shopping and when I came back both hulls had four layers of mat and roving combo epoxied on the bows . In the following days he went through the boat, identifying areas which needed his attention.
Ramon preparing the epoxy
In another area – I took down my old mainsail, which brought me all the way from New Zealand to replace it with the new main made by Rolly Tasker’s loft in Thailand. The agreement was that I would use the hardware that I had on my old sail, especially the batten receptacles on the luff and that task fell to the Shelter Bay sail loft, run by an English couple, Cain and April Delahunt (and their dog Quinn). The old sail would be donated to places that need sails, like Cuba and Haiti. The loft would attach the receptacles and check the sail. I asked them to call me when they were ready to do it, as I wanted to see the sail before anything was done.
When the big day came, I helped April take the sail out of the package. It became clear very quickly that Rolly Tasker installed new batten receptacles and the rest of the required hardware, disregarding the original agreement. I took it back to the boat intending to put it in place myself; I brought the couple a bottle of wine as a token of appreciation for their unpaid help.
For the electrical jobs I contacted Thorsten, a German yachtie who would get the “Russell’s list” plus the replacement of three leaking hatches rubber seals. He separated the house batteries from each other, checked them under load and verified my concern that there was a faulty one which dragged all the bank down. We took it out and now our capacity would be 500 instead of 600 amps; in reality all we lose is 50 amps because when half the capacity is used, we have to charge so it’s not that bad. I may, however try and get another Discover E-27 battery if available here at a reasonable price.
Thorsten on the job
12.10.16 – Wednesday – As morning came it seemed as a good day to finish the sail work. It turned up to be a complicated matter. As I spread the sail on deck I was a bit worried whether the thread in the receptacles matched the one on the bolts I had for connecting them to the cars on the mast. I was relieved to find out that they did. I then discovered that instead of the sailcloth flap that I had on the leach of the previous sail this one had units similar to the ones on the luff, with a big Allen bolt closing the aperture through which the batten should pass. I tried to open it but encountered resistance and decided not to take chances. I’ll call the professionals – April and Cain.
As I was waiting for Cain to come I took another look at the unit and discovered a small Allen screw which when taken out released the big one. I called April on the VHF to say that there was maybe another bottle on the way and that, again, I would not need their services. As I struggled with the first and longest batten I understood that I better have a helper. I asked Victor, the yard’s crew chief, for a guy and he sent a young man over. We then found out that the new sail required longer battens than the old one. The immediate solution was to move those I had to positions higher up the sail, inserting them in the pockets and cutting them to the correct size. I was left with two empty batten pockets. The lazy bag on “Two Oceans” has two fiberglass poles running the length of the boom. Took one out and measured it – they were exactly the same thickness and would fit perfectly; I never understood their purpose in the lazy-bag anyway.
After that operation I was completely winded. I didn’t have the energy or the appetite for lunch; just sat in the cockpit drinking water. I asked the youngster (whose name I forgot to ask) to come back manana to help me complete the job; he was very willing and said he would come early – “temprano, ocho hora”, eight o’clock.
13.10.16 – Thursday – I woke up very early; as I was having my breakfast (0645) the phone rang. Andy was on the line to say he was coming and to inquire again about the job with view to which tools he should bring. While waiting for my sail project helper to come I started doing it myself. The battens I needed to take care of were 4.75 and 4.33 meters long, not easy to keep the pockets in a straight line and push them in. Time kept moving on and no helper in sight so I finished it by myself and hoisted the sail up the mast. I liked what I saw; the sail has a very nice shape.
Andy showed up a little late and with his second in command started working on the starboard engine. They worked until four p.m and promised to come tomorrow to finish the work. Finally progress is made!
14.10.16 – Friday – I took the 0800 marina bus to town to do some hardware and food shopping. I searched for and found a replacement for the two battens I stole from the lazy-bag. PVC pipes, sold by 20 feet units, costing the staggering 1.90$ a piece. I arranged with Teddy, a colorful character who drives a taxi van serving the marina, to bring them over from the store.
Teddy, by the way, suggested that I buy the anti-fouling paint through him; 20 liters can of Jotun for 610$ including the delivery. The marina charges 50% more and Pesquieros – the store I bought it last year for even less, raised the price to more than 700$.
Back at the marina I found Andy hard at work; by four p.m the job was done. I promised him a bonus in case he finished the work on Saturday and Friday was even better so I gave him 10% more. The only thing that marred the picture was a missing oil pipe, which I ordered ten days ago and did not arrive yet. Without it the engine cannot be started. A frantic call to Arturo, the Marine-Warehouse agent in Panama, produced a Fedex tracking number that enabled me to see that the order was being shipped today from Miami. According to the Fedex system it would first go to Memphis and only then to Panama.
15.10.16 – Saturday – Now that the work in the starboard cabin was done I could go in and clean the place. More work was done in the fiberglass department – Ramon fitted plates to cover the big cavities through which the drive legs exit the hulls. Usually those are covered by rubbers which do not adhere well to the hulls and enable sea flora and fauna to find their abode there, killing the smoothness of the surface. Ramon, as always did a great job. I trimmed the rubbers and glued them in place with 3M 5200 adhesive sealant.
Another task, which I did by myself with instruction from Gili at home, was cooking meat patties from some minced meat that defrosted and had to be cooked or thrown away. I did not eat it yet because today I ordered the same lunch I saw the marina workers were taking. I learned it came from the military base near the marina and at 2.5$ for the full meal it was a nice deal: all I had to add was some spicy Mexican salsa.
Comida de trabajadores
16.10.16 – Sunday – It was a rainy day. I felt the necessity of some exercise and disregarding the drizzle and possible heavier stuff went out for a walk in the forest. The howler monkeys hollered and following the sound I succeeded in locating the tree they congregated on. Another interesting animal was a black creature with long limbs and tail, long tail and the head like that of a weasel. Couldn’t take pictures because by then the drizzle was replaced by a shower. I was happy to be back on the boat when the rain became very heavy with thunder and lightening.
A day of rest for the marina workers and with the horrid weather I only did some cleaning, crossword puzzles and reading. Which reminds me that I did not report the worst malfunction since the engine drive problem – my Kindle died on me right in the middle of Elena Ferrante’s book number three of her Neapolitan novels. My Kindle is my library and I need to read! I have a few paper books on board and there are some books cruisers leave near the grocery store but all of them are what you may call “Flight books” and not very satisfying.
17.10.16 – Monday – Beautiful morning! I installed both propellers and went on cleaning the interior. In the afternoon Victor came to discuss the cleanup of the port fuel tank as suggested by Jeff in Bocas; his initial thought was to take the tank out, which would have entailed disassembling the windlass and the chain locker – too much work. I suggested pumping out all the fuel (necessary anyway) and giving it a few cycles of rinsing with water. The pumped fuel seemed very clean and the first rinsing cycle showed clean water going out of the tank.
During the day I followed the tracking information on the FedEx internet site. Around four p.m I could see that the parts I’m waiting for are “in the sorting facility in Panama City”. That’s good news!
18.10.16 – Tuesday – I the morning I gave the fuel tank one last rinse. Victor came by with a compressed air hose which he put into the tanks filling port in hope to evacuate what water was still hiding there; it was not so effective so the decision was to fill the tank with fuel and then open the valve and let the water – which would be at the bottom – flow out. We thought of doing it before launching, using the travel lift to tilt the boat in the direction of the tank outlet.
In the afternoon the part arrived; Hallelujah! One of the parts that I ordered was a plastic plug for my Racor water separator;it includes an O ring and a ball. Look at the picture and guess its price. The answer would be at the end of this post.
Andy promised to come tomorrow and finish the work.
19.10.16 – Wednesday – The crew finished painting the antifouling; all we need in order to re-launch is Andy’s job and the water drainage. We tried to drain without tilting but after taking out a few gallons we saw that a small amount of water was still there, so decided to try again, this time tilting.
1500 – Where is Andy? Not answering his phone! 1730 – same!
20.10.16 – Thursday – 0715 Andy is not answering ETC. I asked Edwin to call the man and that helped. Andy called me back, explaining that he had to go to Panama City to get some parts. He has to take care of another boat in Shelter Bay and will come to me next. Next turned out to be 1820 and he worked two hours and 15 minutes, having to improvise some missing bolts by cutting long ones that I had with my dull hacksaw. Finally the work was done.
21.10.16 – In the morning Victor lifted the boat and tilted her as planned.
Victor – King of the Travel Lift
In the two days of that draining operation I had to spill out 40 liters of fuel before all trace of water disappeared. “Two Oceans” was then lowered into the water. Gingerly I started the starboard engine and look inside the engine room to make sure Andy did everything right and the compartment was water tight; it was. I let the engines run for a while and then motored to my assigned berth.
In the afternoon I heard someone knocking on the hull; it was Rudy, a Dutch yachtie who lives on a boat in the marina and is an electrician. Thorsten sent him over having no time to come himself. I opened the cover of the starboard engine for him to check the connections of the big alternator to the house bank and as I looked inside I saw water covering the drive’s diaphragm. My heart skipped a beat, I was afraid I would have to take the boat out again. Once the panic subsided, we looked closely and found out that the leakage was from the connection of the saltwater pipe to the drive. The edge of the pipe, after years of being squeezed by the metal band simply broke up. A quote from Jeff’s list of jobs:” Check all pipes, replace as needed” so he probably thought there was no need. This was quickly repaired and I could breath normally once more.
Rudy said that the electricians who worked on my boat connected the starting battery of the port engine to the house battery bank. He separated them and when we tried to start the engine we found out that the battery was completely flat. “Buy a new one” says Rudy. He worked for about three hours doing all sort of small repairs and almost completing the “Russell’s list.
In the evening there was live music near the restaurant with a quartet of long stay yachties and one of the marina employees who played and sang old rock songs. Another couple, guitar and violin, sang country songs. It was very nice but made me lose my dinner as it was started at 1900 and lasted two hours. Two bottles of liquid bread plus the guacamole I intended to accompany the main course were good enough.
23.10.16 – Sunday – When I left the marina it was overcast and raining but as the hours passed the sky cleared. For a while I was able to use sails only but then the wind died again. At 1500 I dropped anchor in Linton Bay, right by a strange looking catamaran that I am quite sure I met eight years ago on the Pacific side.
I opened the starboard engine room to check for leaks and found what seemed to be an oil leak from the new pipe Andy installed; I tightened it and it seemed to stop the leak. Thus ended this maintenance chapter which took five weeks. No fun at all and of course it is not really finished; but this is the way cruising is. After watching the group play yesterday I have in mind writing lyrics for “The Cruiser’s Maintenance Blues” to the tune of “Frankie and Johnny”.
What next? The plan that Gili would join the boat was shelved when the condition of her 93 years old mother deteriorated. I’ll leave the boat in Linton Bay marina, where the cost is half of that in Shelter Bay. In any case I would be leaving Panama on Tuesday, destination yet unknown depending on Gili’s mom health; straight home or maybe via my daughter in California. The plan is to come back at the end of December. The Pacific is on our minds…
The plug’s price is 29.99$; ROBERRY!