Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 18, 2015

Panama October 15– It’s getting better- and then…

13.10.15 – Tuesday – I picked Menachem up from the airport at 0830 and we returned to the boat. We said good bye to Mary and to some of the people we got to know there and motored to Bocas marina to fill our fuel tanks. While tied to the fuel dock we lowered the dinghy from the foredeck into the water, placed the outboard on its stern and hoisted it to the aft platform in preparation for sailing. During that maneuver my phone rang; I ignored it and only later I saw that it was Jay, the refrigeration man. I immediately called him back and explained our freezer problem. “I’m on my way to the marina right now, I can come and take a look” he said.

Jay turned out to be a real pro; he found out that the connection between the thermostat to the controller was broken. Renewed it and the machine started singing. He added some refrigerant and we had an operational freezer!

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If you need a refrig man in Bocas – Jay’s number is 67596277 but I understand that in a few months he will head north to the Northwest Passage, where perhaps his skills would be less in demand.

Now that the freezer was O.K the need to rush to Colon diminished. We decided to spend the night in Crawl Cay and take it easy for the day. I had to go to the harbormaster’s office to extend my cruising permit which was to expire on the 21st. I only needed two more weeks but the rules are you have to renew it for a whole year at the cost of 185$. Taking the dinghy ashore revealed a new malfunction – I pulled the starter line of the outboard and it was stuck. Rowed ashore easily, finished the bureaucracy business, bought two dozen beers and rowed back. Reaching the boat we also found out that the plastic parts holding the dinghy’s seat in place delaminated, separating from the tubes.

Menachem, the enthusiastic photographer, was unhappy, having found out that the camera he brought along, given to him by a relative for the trip, was missing its charger. His smile came back on when I gave him a universal charger that did the job.

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14.10.15 – Wednesday – The accumulation of things to be fixed and acquired made us decide to go straight to Shelter Bay marina in Colon, a leg of 140 miles. Before moving out I put the rod and reel to work and very soon had three small snappers on board. The importance of that was the need to prove that Menachem, despite past rumors and beliefs, is not a fishing jinx. I was confident we would take some fish on the way. We were motoring along on flat seas, aided by a favorable current with light wind. Close to sunset a big fish took the lure, pulling almost all the line out. Not wishing to lose it all I tightened the friction nut to the maximum and that caused the line to break.

We had a bit of excitement when the water temperature alarm of the starboard engine sounded; for some reason we all centered our thoughts on a faulty impeller and I decided to wait until morning to replace it; we continued with the port engine.

15.10.15 – Thursday – At 0220 Danny woke me up to report that the current deserted us and that our speed was less than four knots. Menachem, whose bunk is right above the starboard engine, was to come on watch at 0300 and at that time I went into the engine room to investigate. I started by checking the cooling fluid and found it to be full; next I dismantled the saltwater filter and found a small piece of plastic stuck in the filter element. Once cleaned and reinstalled the system worked perfectly.

At 0600, just before sunrise, I put the fishing lure in the water. It didn’t take long for something big to take it and after quite a long struggle (on both sides) the unmistakable shape of a shark appeared close to our stern.

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We thought of saving the lure and releasing the beast, but the hooks were lodged deep in its fearsome mouth and I just cut the line and saw it disappear into the deep.

Two and a half miles to Colon harbor entrance another fish was caught; this time it was the commonplace Cero Mackerel, good enough for a meal for three. Danny brought a bucket into which he wanted me to put the fish. “Careful with the hooks” I said and immediately heard Danny exclaim with pain as a hook pierced the upper part of his left palm. Having had the same experience about a month ago, I treated the patient carefully, deciding to buy a good cutter at the first opportunity.

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pictures: Menachem Sagiv

We entered and tied up in Shelter Bay marina and went to the office with the primary goal of arranging the filling of our gas bottles. John, the marina manager, gave us information that was not very encouraging. According to him the quickest way was through a place in Portobelo called “Captain Jack” who manages to do the filling up in two or three days. We called them and they said they no longer did that service “because you can go to Panagas in Colon and do it there”. “Do they also fill American bottles” “Yes, of course”. I called Benjamin, a reliable taxi driver I knew, and we went with him to Panagas with our three bottles. I tried to tempt them to do it on the spot but the bonus I offered was apparently not good enough and I was told to come back at 5 p.m the next day; not a very convenient time, so we agreed on Saturday morning.

Next we drove to the Rey supermarket in Quatro Altos and after having lunch (remember – no gas on board) we shopped for the next four weeks, concentrating on items not available in San Blas. Back at the boat we were all very tired and went to bed early.

16.10.15 – Friday – At 0845 Greg, the Canadian mechanic, came over to repair the outboard. The motor was dormant for more than three months and it took 75 minutes of spraying WD40, cleaning and fiddling to make it work properly. At noon the Panamanian representative of Marine Warehouse chandlery, Arturo, brought the new life-raft I bought. Two milestones toward a “ready for sailing” status.

In the evening we went to the marina’s restaurant, a place normally crowded by yachties; we were the only patrons, which was rather depressing. The food was O.K though.

17.10.15 – Saturday – Come morning I took the marina’s bus to town, where Benjamin met me and drove to Panagas; I paid 36$ for three tanks. Quick stop at a gas station for some Gasolina and then back to Shelter Bay. I felt we overcame all the hurdles and were now ready to start some leisurely cruising. First on the agenda – Rio Chagres. We dropped anchor in the pristine anchorage I always go to and as I put the engines in reverse to back away and check that the anchor was holding, I heard a strange banging noise. I put the throttle back in neutral, went down to look at the engine room and asked Danny to put the engine in reverse again. The moment he did I saw a trickle of water coming out of the diaphragm, the upper of the two sealing the aperture the drive goes out through. When the throttle was back in neutral the flow all but diappeared.

Back in 1996, on my previous catamaran “Roughsoda”, during our delivery trip from England to Israel the same thing occurred when we were moored in a port in the Peloponnese. At that time the flow of water was much bigger and we had to take the boat out of the water immediately and replace the diaphragms. It was clear that the same should be done here. We upped the anchor and sailed back to the marina, doing 7 knots using full sails and cruising power on the starboard engine. On the way I called Edwin, the man in charge of maintenance in the marina and told him I needed to haul out. Of course it would have to wait till Monday.

We entered Shelter Bay just before some black clouds rolled in and discharged their watery cargo. Greg, the mechanic, came by and confirmed that the only course of action was to take the boat out. He suggested I order the parts A.S.A.P and have them delivered by courier. I was not overly alarmed but rather pissed off thinking about the loss of time and money. I decided I’d use the haul out to paint the bottom and do some other stuff I planned to do in Florida. Our voyage plan was severely disrupted; Menachem, who was to stay on the boat only until the 24th, would lose the opportunity of seeing San Blas. To his credit I must say that he took it all calmly and went on trying to console me.

Having Margaritas and dinner improved our mood somewhat. Danny and Menachem stated investigating the idea of taking a land tour for two or three days. I was peeking into the engine room from time to time and noticed that the flow of water increased a bit. I put rags to try and stop the water ingress. Although the bilge pump worked and easily discharged the small amount that accumulated, I organized a watch system by which the engine room would be checked every hour.

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Hoping for good news I sign off for a while; I’ll come back when we re-launch.


Miki and the guys on “Two Oceans”



  1. Sorry to hear about all the problems.
    Wish you quick and efficient repairs and then a lot of good sailing.

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