Posts Tagged ‘Airbox Express’


Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Frustration raises its ugly head when work time becomes greater then the expected completion time. Since launching we’ve been playing dodge ball with this emotion and doing our best to readjust our time expectations. The main engine elbow is in

Perkins 4-236 Waterneck OLD

Perkins 4-236 Waterneck OLD

and 99% complete.  The water neck which sends water to the exhaust line via a loop and vacuum break was on the list to be fixed and so while working on the elbow I replaced that fitting too. With the

Waterneck Studs next to New

Waterneck Studs next to New

water neck while on the hard I figured I would make the switch in the water. Bad idea. Unbeknownst to me the neck sits slightly below the waterline so I needed to shut off the main engine raw water intake and clamp the water line that cools the dripless stuffing box. After some discussion on the CS-BB  bulletin board about the exhaust elbow I’m now going to add some fiberglass exhaust tape to the dry part of the fitting and hose clamp it in place, then once a year or so I can inspect the fitting and hopefully be forewarned of any potential issues.

Perkins 4-26 Exhaust elbow and mixer

Perkins 4-26 Exhaust elbow and mixer

The cost for the unexpected exhaust elbow: $350 bucks plus some misc parts. All told,  just shy of $400.  That’s counting taxis and various acutraments at Garcia’s, the sole best store for mechanical gear and tools in Colon. The cost of the water neck fitting I purchased in the US was approx $250.  We almost had a problem in that I never explicitly explained to the machine shop that the input and exhaust lines need to be adjusted for to run  parallel  to each other. However they were close enough.  Close enough with the hose on the hose is able to make the slight change in direction and not chafe on any other part(s) of the engine.  That single job took about 10 days from start to finish.  It was not on our list at all and a total surprise.

When you are in your home waters it can be so easy to  complete a project and know roughly how much it will cost, but once you’ve left for foreign shores  the price goes up and the days multiply. I expected the elbow to be close to $200 (Rob on Akka felt the same) and I was expecting 1 to 2 weeks. So our time frame wasn’t bad but the cost was double. With that job completed  I’ll look for picking up parts to be spares and never be in that specific bind again. From the main engine we moved on to the generator.

I now have 2 exhaust elbow setups for the generator and so when in the middle of the Pacific at some lovely atoll, should there be an issue I’ll be able to do a complete switch out. Sweet. That will be our goal when we leave here – that mostly anything that has broken in the first 4 years will have a complete drop in spare.  Other cruisers tell me that is the surest way to never have an issue with any specific part again. Either way; I consider it a win, win situation.

Aquagen Exhaust side complete

Aquagen Exhaust side complete

The exhaust side of the generator is in,  for the most part new plumbing and a new Aqualift muffler, new hose to the  muffler and all secured. The only gotcha there was that the mixing elbow on the exhaust pipe wasn’t aligned perfectly and I had to move the shelf for the Aqualift muffler.  Over all that job went rather smoothly. In the process I cleaned as much as I could, Ospho’ed any of the areas with rust and then sprayed high temp Silver paint on the engine. She looks ok, not as good as new but better then she had been. With the generator exhaust elbow spitting mists of salt water for the last 6 months of our time cruising Panama the engine wasn’t looking pretty.

Once I had exhaust side together I began to work on the water maker side. We received a new; much heavier bracket from Aquamarine for mounting the alternator. I had sent Dan (owner of AquaMarine) the old alternator bracket so he could match the critical measurements; but he insisted on sending me the new brackets with the tabs and insisted on me taking it to a welder in Panama to get it, as he said “perfect”. That cost alone was an additional $65. Thirty dollars for the welding and $35 for the taxi trips and translator. Yeah, we can talk some Spanish (we did go to Spanish school) but we didn’t want any misunderstandings and working with a local who can make sure the communication is correct and the work completed when indicated is worth the extra bucks. Rudi (my chauffeur and translator) had arranged for the work to be completed that same day but in the pm. My marina ride left the city at  a little past 11…. am. The following day I would return to Colon and Rudi would pick it up and join me at the bus stop in Colon.

I was on the bus at 8am and called Rudi when we crossed the Panama Canal Locks. It was then that Rudi told me the part wasn’t finished yet. Later he explained that the electric was out in the afternoon (a frequent occurrence outside of Panama City) at the shop and the piece could not have been welded. The machinist indicated he would have it ready by 9 am the following day.  As 9 came and went I began wondering if indeed I would be receiving the piece today. Not to be too disappointed Rudi shows up a little after 10am.  Then he took me to; of all places, Garcia’s where I picked up some more parts. Of the dozen fasteners I received 10 worked. One nut I was lucky enough to have discovered, didn’t spin on the bolt!  So back the girl went to get the correct nut. And of the nylon washers I received all were in a group. The group looked perfect yet the following day upon installation one washer had a much larger center, so large it wouldn’t work.

So here I go again, back to Garcia’s, back to get more supplies and another day we’ll finish the HP pump and alternator. In the mean time I figured I could at least get everything mounted and lined up. I had the high pressure (HP) pump out and on the table ready to set the Amptech Alternator on it. Bringing the alternator out of the engine room where she’s been lying for 6 months I noticed the armature wouldn’t turn. Why I hadn’t noticed it a week ago when I started on the bracket I didn’t know. But now I notice. I take it up to the work area and put a wrench on her. I can turn the nut holding the serpentine pulley but can’t turn the armature. DAMN!  Ok. Another piece of the puzzle broken. Call Roger in Panama City and arrange with him to have the alternator taken to a shop there for a total refurbishment.  Then I’ll install and check it out and I’m going to buy a drop in replacement for that item too. Luckily some other boaters we met a year ago here live and work in Panama City. Bob was nice enough to haul the alternator to the city where Roger will pick it up and take it to the shop. We already have a back up alternator, we have one on the main engine and one on the generator but I’m feeling like when we’re in the Pacific I don’t want to be trying to fly one in. It is EXPENSIVE in the middle of that HUGE ocean to move supplies and who knows where we’ll be when we need it.

OK,  the Aquagen is only partially complete, on to other projects.  We ordered enough varnish for 2 years from Signature Finishes. We also included Paint and some supplies, then had it sent to the freight forwarder we use; Airbox Express. Good news is it got to the forwarders Miami address promptly, bad news is Airbox Express wants  $550 + dollars for paperwork and then we need to pay shipping and duty on top of that. No matter how one tries to make cruising a moderate endeavor it just isn’t. The cost of getting the material here will be about the same as the cost of the goods. We’ve hired Roger (our Panama City Chauffeur / Interpreter) to help. So far we’ve not made much progress.  Really, we’ve not made any progress. Roger sent me an email address to contact at Airbox which I did. I emailed her one week ago and have not had a response.

And so it goes. Damn good thing we don’t have to leave here by a certain date. Damn good thing we can tolerate Shelter Bay Marina, the Restaurant and the cost. Damn Good thing I say….

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long


I’m sick I ate at a McDonalds

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

First: I didn’t get sick eating at McDonalds. And yes they have a Mickey D’s in Panama City, Republic of Panama. I’ll start a day or so earlier. We needed to go to PC one more time; our Watermaker Clutch had arrived at Airbox Express.  So far we’ve provisioned for Kuna Yala about 6 times now, the freezer is full, the stores are full, I have most of the supplies for repairs that I can remember. Then about 2 days before one of us left  for PC the Mac computer died. It wouldn’t  start up. Didn’t even get a chime from a restart. The drive started but that was it. Couldn’t connect up to it from another computer and am about a month shy of a new backup. Since there was a Mac store (not listed on Apples International Website) in PC I would take it in and see what the cost of a repair there is. And too, we had met Drew at the Thanksgiving dinner in Linton; Drew’s an ex pat living in Panama, and he plays tennis. So I was elected to make the trip, play some tennis, grocery shop, and pick up our needed boat parts.  I had arranged with Drew to play in the afternoon and then would get to the hotel later that evening.

We arranged stay at the Las Vegas hotel again primarily because it’s Mothers Day in Panama and the hotels are full. Mothers Day is a national holiday in Panama and this did cause another issue.

W/ took me in in the am to catch the 9 am bus. I arrived about 30 minutes early as in our opinion most of the latin cultures use time as a guide and there is nothing finite about a schedule.  Thus, I’m early to ensure that if the bus swings by 10 minutes before 9 I don’t need to wait an extra hour.  After waiting about 20 minutes a fellow cruiser wanders by and tells me it’s a holiday and the buses only run on the even hours.  So all I ended up with coming in 20 minutes earlier was an extra hour wait.

Finally I’m on the Red Devil (an all painted up School Bus); as the locals call them, and take that into the bus terminal in Colon.  There I switch buses and get on an express bus to PC. Red Devil to the Bus Terminal $3.00. Express Bus to PC $3.35.   I arrive in PC about 2 hours later then planned but luckily Drew is still interested in some tennis. I run about the Allbrook Mall to the Mac store only to discover that they won’t take the computer for repair, I have to go to the Multi Plaza Pacifica. With that option nixed I run to get a bite to eat before I met Drew for tennis. I found a great Ice Cream place and had a Brownie Sunday – hopefully enough to get me by.

Drew takes me to a 3 court tennis club that is nice and quiet. Restrooms, Showers, water, and 3 hard courts. We hit for a couple of hours and share some tennis stories. I’m feeling good, albeit a little tired after the bus and lack of real food. Drew takes me for a short tour of PC before he drops me at the hotel and I promise to call again if we get to the city to play some more tennis.

I check in, drop my light luggage in the room and take my dead computer to the Mac Store at Multi Plaza. There is also a Reba Smith (a rather largish grocery store) at the Plaza where W/ had given me a IMHO rather extensive shopping list.

I hit the Mac Store in the holiday season and there were hordes of people. Fortunately there weren’t any waiting for repairs and I gave my computer to them with $37 bucks for diagnosis (although) I had told them what was wrong!  Then I went straight to grocery shopping. Shopping for groceries is high on my list of things I prefer  NOT to do. Grocery shopping is real close to visiting the Dentist and have a tooth repaired without anesthesia. There I nearly ran through the store buying as many dry goods on the list as I could find. Time was  rapidly approaching 9 pm so I checked out and I spent about 20 minutes awaiting a Taxi to take me to my hotel. Communication caused a longer wait as when the driver (in hind sight) asked what the address was I couldn’t tell him.

Finally back at the hotel I dropped my groceries and walked down to Monolo’s Italian restaurant. I had my favorite dish there; Carne Lasgana, and skipped the Cervaza as I was exhausted. I ate quickly and then walked back to the hotel. I entered the cold room; I had turned the AC up as I left to go eat, and almost ran to the wall unit shivering. I turned the temp back to a human survival range and from there I crawled into bed fully clothed with chills. I balled up into a fetal position and waited. I was slightly lucky in that I had brought some Saline mist to counteract any nasal buildup and I used it freely. All night I chilled and sweat waiting for morning to come, wishing I was on the boat instead of alone in PC.

In the am I felt a little better but knew I wasn’t 100%. Roger, our cruiser friendly SSCA cruising station guide was going to pick me up at 9 am. There we were to travel the city to acquire the rest of the supplies on W/s and my list, then stop at Airbox for the clutch and he would deliver me back to Linton. Hopefully alive!  First thing I said to Roger was I need a pharmacy for some medicine. We hit the pharmacy about 1 pm. 🙂  We made a list and attacked the stores we needed, some more refrigeration stuff, a Pizo alarm, a clamp on Amp meter, Price Smart, and Reba Smith again, then Airbox and then home. As the day dragged on I was running out of energy fast.  I was making it though the am quite well but still needed my Aspirin and some decongestant.  Finally; at Reba Smith I hit a pharmacy and picked the necessary supplies up. From there it was McDonalds.  I wanted to grab a bite at RS but the lines were so long and I was barely hanging on as it was. Right now this holiday season my wish was to be back on the boat ASAP, and from PC to Linton was at least a 2 hour ride.  We swung through Mickey D’s and I got a Big Mac, Fries and Soft Drink. I only ate 1/2 the Big Mac. I wasn’t doing all that great.  We hit Airbox Express where we picked up the all important Water Maker Clutch and Roger ran into Rey’s (another Supermarket just across the parking lot). I was so exhausted that by this time I just sat in the car.  I knew there were large bags of MnM Peanuts there but didn’t have the energy to go and pick some up!

On the ride back to Linton I tried to sleep and every so often Roger and I would talk about Panama. Can’t say as I remember much while I’m simply just trying to hang on to life. I may sound like I’m really hanging on to life, I felt like I was at Death’s door but I know I was simply a body out of energy.

We made it to Linton still with daylight to spare and we were just ahead of the rain showers.  I had called some friends on Hobo and they called W/ on the VHF to let her know I was getting close. She’d come in in our Dyer Dinghy with the massive 2hp on it and there we would ferry all the goodies out to the boat. I estimated 4 trips. I was wrong…..again.

We unloaded the car and W/ paid Roger for his time in the city and the trip back to Linton.  He took off as he had another cruiser to pick up at the airport that evening.  W/ and I loaded the Dinghy and I rode with the supplies to the boat while W/ guarded what was left on the dock.  I hefted all the supplies from that trip on board Elysium and then headed back to pick up W/ and the rest of the goodies hoping to stay conscious and hoping to beat the rain squall moving in the anchorage.  As I neared the dock W/ waved me off!  Reggie and Debbie on Runner had dropped off a friend and were heading back to the anchorage so they offered to take W/ and the rest of the supplies. They have an inflatable with a 20 hp on it and move close to light speed across the water.  Thankful now for them I turned around and sped at max with our 2 hp of about 4 kits!  W/ was on the boat and moving supplies out of the rain. I shut the engine down, handed her the painter to the dinghy and went below declaring that “I AM FINISHED TODAY!”

I rested for 4 days before I felt like doing much beyond getting up, looking out at paradise and then falling back into bed. And on the 4th day, I was back with the living world.