Posts Tagged ‘Pacific’

Light Speed Part I

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

With Dirk and Silvie aboard we headed to Taboga the next day. Dirk travels fast. With him Silvie is pulled in his wake like drafting a semi on I-80.  And now we’re all drafting Dirk.

In sail boating circles talking about speed is like discussing how fast corn grows. You know it grows because you planted it a few months earlier and now one could easily get lost in the field. But with boats and owners arguing the merits of how fast their boat goes IMHO is just, well, downright comical. We go  X number of knots, Hell! we travel Y knots. Oh we make XYZ miles.  But no matter what, we all  travel around the speed of a bicycle.  Yeah, some bikes go a little faster than others, some cars too, but then you have jets, and fighter jets, and then rockets. Compared with other modes of transportation boats go damn slow.

Life however is different. The way one person lives is molasses to another. And that is Dirk and Silvie and Wendy and I. They traveled 28k miles in 3 years, we’ve traveled maybe 5 k in 5 years. However the Pacific will raise our mileage a bit but we just like to meander.

Where to Next?

Where to Next?

With Dirk  here meandering will be difficult. First the Mules (Dirk, Silvie, and Jenny) wanted to visit Taboga when we cleared the last lock, dropped off the advisor, and rid ourselves of the fenders and lines.  That didn’t happen, but as we’ve now lost Jenny back to the land of instant everything; we head to Taboga.

There we pick up a mooring and enjoy the afternoon. It’s kind of dreamy. Dirk and Silvie  and W/ jump in for a refreshing swim, I hang on board; content to do nothing.

Hangin in Taboga, Panama

Hangin in Taboga, Panama

But that doesn’t last long. Within minutes of Dirk back on board he’s thinking of heading ashore. Ok, lets start the dinghy engine.

Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate his approach, just his timing has me discombobulated. It would take me a day or so before we got the engine going and without his assistance maybe more. He has the genes for working with mechanical things. I mean, for him it’s innate. He said we should try it hanging on the pulpit before we get the dinghy down and all set up. So we put gas in the tank and give it a few pulls. She turns over but not even a sputter.  Damn good thing the dinghy is not in the water waiting to go ashore.  We take a break. Then we pull the spark plug, clean it and check for a spark. Now we’re on my time schedule. To check for a spark we wait till it’s dark.  Dirk grounds the plug and I pull the cord. Yep we have a spark! Should work, doesn’t. No shore side visits tonight.

The boat is moving a bit. The winds have shifted to the NE and we’ve a good chop coming in to the anchorage. The Lison crew called it “Bouncy Bouncy”. It’s decided that as pretty as Taboga is from the water we don’t have to go ashore right now. The anchorage isn’t the most comfortable so we might as well head out to the Perlas tomorrow. We find rest by looking at the back sides of our eyelids and the following am we head off for the Perlas.

Near after first light, before the circumnavigaters have their first hit of caffeine W/ and I are furling the awning and preparing the boat for sea. While it’s only 30 nm or so we need to ensure things don’t change places. At least without some human making the change happen. We wake up the vacationers and within short order are on our way.

Dirk ; whose internal motor comes the closest to a perpetual motion machine, decides to begin fishing. First however he needs to replace some old monofiliment line on the fishing poles. On one pole the replacement goes well while the other reel is frozen. Without concern he gets one line in the water and I decide to put in the  line from our hand reel that has’t been used since we’ve been cruising.  The hand reel has a line out with a shiny jig and

Magic Planer

Magic Planer

a Planer (that allows one to fish at a specific depth).  Dirk’s fancy setup has a new Dolphin catching surface lure. W/ was at the helm and we were motoring towards our target; 5 hours away.  I started to take apart the other reel to get it working.We watched as  W/ steered by many fish balls with birds feeding from above and larger fish feeding on the fry from below.  Dirk watched his lure expecting to hook a fish any minute. I had most of the reel apart and was letting the lubricant soak into the various gears. When I went back on deck I saw that my clothes pin warning had snapped.

I run the line out the midship hawse pipe and it is heavy line. Able to carry well over 100 kg of weight. To that I have attached the Planer, There I run out 50 lb test to a swivel and then I attach a 10′ wire leader. Don’t want the fish biting through the leader. On that is a shinny jig.  By adjusting the speed we troll at and how much line is out the Planer moves to a specific depth. The more line from the boat to the Planer the deeper it trolls. The faster you go the deeper it trolls. I don’t know exactly what depth I troll at but I only let out about 50 feet of the heavy stuff and the rest just runs behind the Planer.  When a fish grabs the lure the Planer is tripped to rise to the surface and then the line goes taught and the hook is set. At this point my little clothes pin announces a potential fish by being pulled free. I can then see a fish being pulled along the surface if indeed I’ve hooked a fish. Some fish are still strong enough to stay down and I won’t see them. So I need to tug on the line and see if there is any extra pull or movement at the other end. “Dirk, I’ve got a fish”! Dirk first reels in the extra line; we don’t need two fish at once, and then comes to where the hooked fish is and begins to hand over hand the line bringing the fish the boat.  Now, I’m not a great line fisherman. I fish only by trolling and my ability to land fish is about 50%, up to now. Dirk is a good fisherman, notice I did not say “sport fisherman”.  He knew the size leader I had and saw that the fish was well hooked. Instead of accepting my gracious offer of a Gaff he just told everyone to move back as he was bringing it aboard. Silvie knew what was happening and was ready, W/ stayed at the helm mesmerized by this, new to us, method, and I stood back.  He donned leather gloves wrapped the line to hold it well and swung that fish out of the water and onto the boat. Flopping away Silvia secured the fish, I got a knife and then she opened up the gills. Dirk grabbed the bucket and we tied the fish’s tail to the life line and hung it head down to bleed into the bucket.

Hangin By the Tail

Hangin By the Tail

Now W/ is happy that Dirk and Silvia are here. Really happy!   I would have the fish in the cockpit flopping and bleeding all over the place.  The pros (Dirk and Silvie) tell us that this method limits the blood in the fish.  They let the fish hang long enough for rigormortise to set in. That aids in filleting the fish.  We untangle the hand line and begin trolling with both lines again. The fish is left tied by the tail and hanging upside down dripping into a bucket. W/’s smile is big; she knows I’ll be doing my next fish cleaning with this method.

Maybe W/ knew more than the rest of us. Silvie cleaned the fish an hour later. Rigormortise set in and as the fish was now bled out and firm it was an easy task to clean it in the gunnel. Easy for her. She’s rather petite and I just can’t get my big behind between the cockpit and the outside of the boat, not enough to clean a fish. Right now however Silvie is doing a mighty fine job. Not long after she finishes Dirk  thinks he had a hit as the pole end quivers and then stops. I check my

Cleaning the Peanut Dolphin

Cleaning the Peanut Dolphin

planer and while the line seems to be acting funny I don’t see anything on there. But Dirk tells me he thinks there is and I begin bringing in the line. And by God! There is. I hand over the line to the master fish lander and then; just in case we need it I go to find a gaff. Again he said to forget it. Again we bring the fish up to the boat and viola, he swings it aboard. Silvie covers it with an old towel to settle it down, then I hand her the filet knife. She puts two nice cuts on both sides of it’s gills and we again hang this one face down in a bucket. A nice Peanut Mahi – Mahi.  Tonight we have fresh fish.  Silvie repeats the process from earlier and we have 4 fresh filets cooling in  the refrigerator.

About now we’re getting close to the Perlas and so Dirk and I bring in the fishing lines as navigating is more important then catching more fish. For some odd reason Dirk informs us why he didn’t catch any fish, not even the one that attacked the lure. HE LEFT ON THE HOOK PROTECTOR!  Now that is funny, I’m busting a gut laughing and W/ and Silvie are looking at each other like; “How could the master ever do that”?  But I have to say while I hooked ALL the fish, Dirk landed them. In the end who did what doesn’t really matter. What matters is …. they tasted DAMN GOOD!

We anchor in the cut by Moga Moga where the first US TV show Survivor was filmed. The crew stayed on the plush resort island of Contadora while the victims stay on the uninhabited island Moga Moga. There is a great deal of current running and the sea life in these islands is extremely prolific. This evening Dirk shines his light in the water and a school of a million fry swim towards it; I guess looking for salvation because they were not getting any food from us. Not then anyway.

Before the Sun set, before we had our fresh fish dinner, before I sat down with an evening drink, Dirk had the little engine that didn’t on the boom gallows checking it out. First we checked the fuel. I smelled gas but it did look funny. He had us drain it into a cup and it looked; well, not like gasoline. We drained more. Finally we had gas.  Sitting in the rainy season out on the pushpit the tank decided to fill itself with some fresh water. No wonder it wouldn’t start. We (mainly Dirk ) cleaned the tank and then checked the bowl. The float pin had come off. Now this is my fault. I thought the float screw had to be backed off a turn or so and I had done that when I decommissioned the engine and drained all the fuel lines. Varnished lines, bowls, and jets do not make a happy engine.  He politely ( and I do mean that) informed me that they need to be screwed in tight.  Once we did that, and had good fuel to the bowl / engine he pulled the cord and viola, bang! the damn thing started. Tomorrow we explore.

A Damn nice Pair...of Wheels

A Damn nice Pair...of Wheels

The next am we motored to the island looking for survivors but alas, we found none.  However there were some truly unspoiled beaches. The tidal range here at times is close to  20′ and keeps the beaches clean and without footprints. Dirk finds our wheels on the dinghy a cool gadget and adds them to his cruising list. (He does this by taking a picture and writes nothing down).   A good part of the am we wander the island for new views of our boat and just checking out the surrounding area.

Now Dirk and I have a slightly comical (to me)  running battle. Dirk IMHO has to move every day.  He’s like a shark he has to move or he’ll die (know that Sharks don’t really have to move to live). I on the other hand like to sit a spell. But it is their vacation and I’m content to indulge him / them. And besides, Elysium is coming out ahead. We have things working that would have taken me a week or more to get working and it still might not have been right.  Dirk completes in hours what it would easily take me a day or more to do. So we move… again… to another anchorage. As the last two have been a bit; bouncy, bouncy, I chide him about this one and if so it will be the last one he chooses on board Elysium.

We head south a few miles and anchor near sv Rachel. When we came through the canal Rachel came out to the flats, anchored and then left. When we were through the canal in Las Brisas Rachel came in and the following day left. When we came in to Survivor Island, sv Rachel was there and after we anchored she left. (BTW I won a beer off betting she would leave 🙂 . )  We now came into our new anchorage and sv Rachel was there too. Not long after our arrival she left. She left us with a gorgeous beach, a small island to play on and a quiet – calm (finally) anchorage. Me thinks I won another beer here but my memory is becoming a little off with all these victories. 🙂

Dirk  took the dinghy out for a spin making some final adjustment to the engine, Silvie,  W/ and I put up the awnings and prepared for an afternoon of luxury. W/ chose the beach, Silvie and I chose to snorkel the little island and Dirk just figured he’d hang out in the dinghy and play chauffeur. I took my new Lobster gun hoping to find something. While I saw no lobster, no crab, I did see some good fish swim by and unfortunately they knew the length of this little guy (about 4′ was it’s range) and so while I took some shots I scored no kills.

An hour later we were back aboard, washing the salt and sand off our tropically tanned bodies, preparing dinner,  just plain enjoying the evening. I dreaded the following day!  No need, Dirk liked where we were and we actually spent two nights anchored here …. in Paradise.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

The Panamanian Roller Coaster

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

And what a ride it is.  We’re here in paradise, working on Elysium, making changes to her that we hope will enhance our living on and sailing experience. The ups and downs at times are extreme.

We sold our 12′ Achilles inflatable… finally. I was going to title this blog “Buy High and Sell Low”. For it seems that only other people find great deals and we always seem to provide them. But then, I remember a fellow cruiser; Danny, who bought an ABI Aluminum Rib and after one day of ownership decided he didn’t like it, so he sold it for a $1,000.00 less then he paid! Sounds a lot like a new car purchase and truth be told, with the cost of all our dinghies and what we sold them for, we’ve lost much less then what we would have on any day we drove a newly purchased car off the lot.

Right now we do not have a dinghy, and we’re tied to the dock.  Our new AB Dinghy is in Panama City and we’re looking forward to having her. Our 12′ Achilles (which I loved) but which seemed to not love me back, is now serving another diver. The dinghy seemed to want to run free and some readers may remember the two times she went missing; once in the Bahamas where she was stolen and we luckily got her back… a bit damaged but usable, the other in the San Blas where I loosely tied her to a cleat and while telling stories (lies) at dinner Charlie (our host) counted dinghies and said one was missing. But she didn’t get far and with the help of the other guests the dinghy was recovered. Now I hope she finds her new home more to her liking.

With our new dinghy we’ve purchased a set of wheels; yes, you heard me right, wheels.  On the Pacific side the tides are so great and the beaches not as pristine that to visit them you need to haul your dinghy up beyond the tide line. (Tides are in the double digits there). So we’ve to attach them and as she has a hard fiberglass bottom I’ve purchased a rubber rub strake for the keel so beaching her won’t wear the fiberglass away.  Add to the list when we receive her we’ll make a cover for her while cruising and one for her when she’s deflated and set to carry on the aft deck.  Lots of work yet.

The unexpected was our generator which we are still sorting out.  Greg, a cruising mechanic has been working with me on the rebuild of the generator. When we first tore into her he found one of the rings frozen in place by carbon deposits. Thinking, hoping the frozen ring might be the cause of minimal compression he cleaned the rings and the head and put it all back together.  While torquing the head bolts,  he found two that didn’t want to torque down properly. As correctly tightened as we could we turned the hand crank to see if now we had any improvement in compression … and we didn’t. Back apart the generator came and we made a list of what parts I needed to order. It wasn’t looking all that bad and I proceeded to contact a supplier in the US and order the parts.

Bad Kubota Head

Bad Kubota Head

Perfectly timed Roger showed up (the cruiser friendly Panamanian driver) and I could send the head with him to Panama City for a valve job and general clean.  Off he went, and we began the task of getting our ducks in a row for the rebuild.

To receive the parts I needed to fill out some forms and work with the distributor and a retailer to enable the parts to be shipped. I would use FedEx as they are the most reliable for fast shipments to Panama and they deliver right to the boat. I contacted  Mary at  South Eastern Power (the Kubota Dealer for this area) and she had her retailer contact Carlos at Power Solutions handle the billing and  fax the paperwork back and forth.  Actually I faxed to the states and they emailed back what I needed.  With the order mostly completed Roger called. As there was horrible phone reception on the boat all I really had was a timed record of his call. I grabbed the phone, hopped off the boat and went in search of a good signal. Walking down the dock and around the marina until I had 3 bars.  I called Roger back and discovered a new let down. The head on the generator was cracked.  Oh-Oh! Greg never saw any crack, I never saw a crack, yet they said it’s cracked and un-repairable.

I anxiously called Mary to find out if my parts had been shipped. Nope! They were still in the queue waiting to be picked up. I added a new engine head to the order. That necessitated another round of emails to guarantee payment and a new calculation for the shipping cost. Thus another day added before they would ship. Next week, I would hopefully have the parts and have the heart of our cruising comfort working again. (As an FYI- the generator runs the high output alternator, the water maker, and the refrigeration compressor).

All there was to do now was wait.  And while we waited the dinghy almost sold and then was sold.  I say almost because the new owner came to look at it and he made an offer W/ couldn’t refuse. I’m never really happy selling anything, always believing I should have gotten more. Anyway, he left a deposit and in hindsight I should have accepted his offer on the contingency that he take it all now. But I’m not the best salesman and I didn’t add that clause. So during the night we (mostly I) worried about anything that could happen to the sale of the dinghy. We worried for naught for the following day he showed up …eventually.

The deed was to be completed at 11 ish. It was raining, Light squalls would roll through filling the dinghy up with water, I would empty the water then it would rain again and I would empty it again.  The dinghy was sitting on the dock fully inflated. He emailed me that he would be here closer to noon. Ok, we wait. Noon came and went. No buyer. Yeah, we would be able to keep the 100 dollar deposit but we didn’t want the dinghy and a 100 dollars. We had a new dinghy on the way and we didn’t want two … again.  About 3pm he showed up in the only break in the rain and some greenbacks came our way and the dinghy went his.  Later I discovered that at 1 ish or so he emailed that he was on his way. Thus our emotional roller coaster drop wasn’t as far as thought but there was a splash zone on the way.

With the dinghy gone we could again focus on Elysium. We began to prep the shear stripe / cove stripe that Lyman Morse neglected to paint.  We had given Dave the marina yard manager our old never to use again Poly Glow.  This deal was way better then “Buy High and Sell Low” as we had bought it and now were giving it all away. But on a boat there is no room to carry what we won’t be using. Only thing is; I forgot we needed to remove the old Poly Glow that was on the stripe before we add the new Signature Finish paint. Back to the new yard manager, Edwin, to explain what we needed and hopefully get some back. Edwin was kind enough to locate the Poly Glow stripper and we felt lucky; he didn’t ask for any money! We returned to the boat and proceeded to prep the area for painting.

Sailomat-Wind-Vane-Paint

Sailomat-Wind-Vane-Paint

With that part of the paint project completed there was a steel boat in the yard that was being sand blasted. I wan’t happy with the paint on our Sailomat Windvane. The blue paint (which I never liked that color on the wind vane) was pealing, cracking, and falling off. I approached Edwin about the smallish job of blasting the 6 items while there was a crew on the other boat project. He agreed to bring the blasting manager by that afternoon and give us a price.  He did and the price was too high.

They said $110 would do it. I balked. Maybe the one good time in my life when I did.  We are after all in Panama and the minimum wage is about $25 / day.  I figured I could, with Rudy (another cruiser friendly Panamanian driver, Colon based), find a shop in Colon that would bead blast them for less then $50. So I explained what I intended, that in the US I had some blasting of small parts done at an auto shop and this should be about $50 bucks in the US.  They agreed, I could get it done for $50. I would deliver the parts to the work area and they would remove all the paint.  Sweet.  I hate grinding away, stripping paint!

The following day no one worked. The sky never turned blue, and rain continued to wet the Earth off and on for about 6 hours. I was lucky as I didn’t yet have the vane off and in pieces and hoped by the following morning I would.

Finally off and in pieces I hauled them up to where the blasting was taking place and left them for the start of their renewal process. How sweet it is when things actually come together.

The pieces are cleaned and ready for etching, primer, and paint!  We’re making progress again. And!  FedEx shows up with my parts. Life is smoothing out.

Greg arrives the next am and we begin (mostly he) to put the heart of our cruising boat back in order. Piston in, bearings in, the end gasket is on and we begin to clean up the head bolts to put the head back on.  He discovered that the threads in two of the bolt holes are messed up. Remember the two that would not torque down correctly!  Most likely when Kubota put the engine together the bolts went in badly somehow or were fixed after the first assembly but before shipping.  I doubt Aquamarine had any need to do anything with the head and I never removed it nor even torqued the bolts (which I should have done). The end result is that there is a problem and the best way to fix it is with Heli-Coils. We stop work.  The plan is to go into Colon and at Garcia’s (which is a big bolt, nut, screw, place); pick up some M9 Heli-Coils. That’s the plan.

I went in expecting success. I don’t know why, I’m generally not an optimistic person but I’ve found most of the fasteners I need for the boat Garcia’s has.  I was disappointed. Garcia’s pointed me to another store and there too I was disappointed. Then I decided I needed to call Roger in Panama City. He could maybe pick up the Heli-Coils there and when he’s out this way I can meet him.

And that is were we’re at today. I’m waiting to hear if Roger has them or if I again need to order a set from the states. As they (Heli -Coils) appear to have a great deal of value for situations like this; should I need to order them from the states I’ll get a couple of sets. In the Pacific; I know I won’t find any. For now the ride has stopped. I wait for the next go around, knowing that the ups and down in life are all part of the experience.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long