15.4.15 – Wednesday – It took just over 24 hours in a train, airplanes, airports and a taxi to reach Shelter Bay marina. Benjamin, a driver whose services we used in the past, waited for me in the arrival hall of Tocumen airport, carrying a big sign with a new version of my name: MYKOLL. As we drove towards Colon, I wondered whether the de-humidifier had performed properly; last time I left Two Oceans without that gismo I spent hours cleaning the mold which accumulated on many parts of the interior. Entering the cabin I saw that it did; what a relief! Of course it did not mean that I had no projects to tackle, but those would wait for tomorrow.
16.4.15 – Thursday – After a jet-lagged night I took the marina’s bus to Quatro Altos, bought a local Sim-card for my phone and bought a lot of stuff in the big Rey supermarket. The plan for the weeks ahead does not include a visit to Colon for about six weeks and we would have guests to feed. On the way back with the bus, sitting up front; I felt a hand touching my shoulder . A woman handed me my wallet which somehow escaped out of my pocket and fell on the bus floor. Money, credit cards and my driving license, not the things you want to lose! I thanked the lady, who agreed to have her picture taken. She disappeared when we reached the marina before I could ask her name. (Next day I saw her again; Her name is Laura.)
I lugged the heavy load to the boat using a wheelbarrow, thinking that I would have to do at least two more provisioning sorties.
After a quick lunch I changed into maintenance garb and state of mind and entered the starboard forward locker to prepare the fuel tank for removal and repair of the leak we discovered on our last trip. It took about two hours of sponging fuel and fighting rusty pipe connections and with the rates for labor in the marina I probably saved a nice sum.
17.4.15 – Friday – Waiting for the marina maintenance guys to come over and extract the tank, I went into the locker and tried to do it myself. The hull is so narrow and tank so wide and heavy – I failed.
Victor and his team arrived; two young workers went into the locker and in 30 seconds had the tank out. I took the pic with my new Go Pro.
They took the tank away and I went in to clean the locker. In the afternoon – another sortie to the supermarket. A lot of stuff went into the freezer, which surprisingly refused to freeze the products fully. After checking and cleaning the electrical connections I let it run again, hoping it’ll do the job.
18.4.15 – Saturday – In the morning Edwin, the marina maintenance chief, took me to see the tank. They had filled it with water and found the leaking crack. “So, is Victor going to weld it?” “No, we don’t have a stainless steel welder here” says Edwin. (formerly he assured me the repair was a piece of cake)“We need somebody from the outside”. “How about calling Ali?” I asked. Ali is a German man, living on a boat in Panama City for quite a few years, working as a welder. I met him after crossing the canal in 2008 and he watched my boat for me when I had to rush home for a while. Ali is the father of Eric Bauhaus who wrote the excellent Panama Cruising Guide. Edwin called the man and I spoke to him; he would come sometime next week.
I was not happy with the performance of my freezer and fridge and went to find Greg, who in addition to engine work, does refrigeration too. Greg agreed to come the next day.
19.4,15 – Sunday – Greg replaced a faulty electrical controller in the freezer. Luckily for me he had an operable used unit, which cost a hundred bucks, cheap compared to close to 300$ that a new one would. I also asked him to replace the fuel pre-filters; those have a glass lower section, which could break in the hands of an unskilled mechanic (moi).
Ali called to say he would come next day at noon. Great!
20.4.15 – Monday – Ali arrived, accompanied by Gertie, his wife and their puppy. His appearance did not really change during the seven years that passed from our previous meeting; big beard and a bushy hair. He did his job quickly and efficiently; we then filled the tank with water (250 liters) and ascertained that there was no leak.
I wheeled the tank to my slip; Edwin guy’s would put it back man’ana.
21.4.15 – Tuesday – Another shopping sortie in the morning. At 2 p.m. the guys came and very quickly the tank was in and I entered the locker to bolt it in place and connect all the fuel lines. I gingerly filled the tank with about eighty liters I had in jerry-cans and to my relief no leak occurred. By the time I finished it was past 1700 and I decided to purge the air from the fuel system and start the engine tomorrow.
22.4.15 – Wednesday – I went through all the motions necessary to bleed the fuel lines and supply fuel to the engine. The last move was to open a bleed screw on the engine fuel filter and work a lever on the fuel pump. No fuel came out; something was wrong. During the operation a plastic plug in the pre-filter broke and made the filter leak. This had happened before on the other engine and somehow was glued in place and made serviceable. As much as I tried duplicating it, I could not make it work. Time to call Greg! The man came and his suggestion was that I buy a new pre-filter. The marina’s chandlery had one, but a closer look showed that it was intended for gasoline outboard engines only and that “used otherwise there is a danger of fire and explosion”.
Greg went to another job; “Call me when you have the new part” he said. The girl at the chandlery, whose name is Genesis (!) tried her best, calling other marine stores but couldn’t locate the item. Finally, using the simple trick of wrapping the plug with a lot of Teflon tape I accomplished the required result; it was firmly in place and not leaking. I went looking for Greg but he was nowhere to be found.
23.4.15 – Thursday – I slept badly that night, fearing that I’ll get stuck in Shelter Bay much longer than I planned. At ten minutes to eight a.m. I came up to Greg’s yacht, which is in the boatyard. I was number two in line…When my turn came, Dr. Greg suggested that I disconnect the fuel pipe from the filter and blow in the direction of the tank. Let me cut it short: after I did it using the dinghy’s air-pump, pumped fuel back in, I reconnected the fuel lines and it worked. I would be able to leave the marina tomorrow.
This is the point where, ideally, I would press the “publish” button on the computer and send the post to the blog. But as I went to change between water tanks when the port one was depleted – the fuse of the starboard pump blew. Another maintenance job!