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
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
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.
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.
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….