August 2013 - Panama

1 August 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
It threw it down again this morning.  Greg, the local mechanic, came on board and replaced the timing belt on our engine and replaced the crankshaft oil seal on the generator – tick another two jobs off the list.

I did a few small jobs, finishing off the rudder, so that it was ready to be painted and then spent the rest of the morning doing some admin and helping Greg as necessary. I’ve appointed an agent to organise our passage through the Panama Canal in September.  I thought that it would be a good idea to get the paperwork sorted out and to get the measurement of the boat done now, so that we will be able to go through the Canal whenever we’re ready.  It’s pretty expensive - $1,450 for everything including $350 for the agent fees.

Bringing in the hydraulic trailer, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Glenys caught the bus to the Shopping Mall and came back with some syringes, on to which I stuck a small tube and managed to successfully squeeze some Life Seal sealant around the stern tube.  I replaced the cutlass bearing housing, the rope cutter and the propeller, so that we’re now ready to go back into the water.

The yard labourers came along, moved the stands holding up the boat and painted the resulting bare patches.  They also painted the rudder to complete the first coat of paint.  I told the Yard Manager that we want to be launched on the 3rd August, providing that the second coat of anti-foul paint is put on tomorrow.  We’ll be glad to get back into the water.

2 August 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
I caught the courtesy bus to the shopping mall and was dropped off at the Novey hardware store, where I had a good wander around and bought things to replenish our tools and spares – two fire extinguishers, propane torch, replacement twist drills, turpentine, etc.  I also bought a small single ring electric hob which will be a good back up in case we run out of cooking gas half way across the Pacific Ocean – a nightmare scenario.

While I was out, Glenys supervised the yard labourers painting on the final second coat of antifoul paint, so we’ll definitely be back in the water tomorrow.  In the afternoon, I pottered about doing a few last jobs including making sure that the steering cables to the rudder are correctly tensioned.  We’ve got a sea cock for one of the cockpit drains that is seized and I had another go at freeing it, but failed abysmally.  It’s jammed open, but it's not really a critical seacock, so I’m going to leave it and sort it out next time that we get hauled out, which should be in New Zealand in 18 months’ time.

Glenys spent the afternoon polishing the hull above the waterline and the boat looks a lot better for her efforts.  

We spent the early evening tidying up the mess of working aboard for a week and prepared the boat to do some sea trials tomorrow. 

3 August 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
The yard labourers came at nine o’clock in the morning, loaded Alba onto a hydraulic trailer and transported us a few hundred metres to the haul out dock.  We were put into the travel lift and I was given a few minutes to do some final anti-fouling.  I hadn’t thought this process through enough and only had a small paint brush, which dribbled paint everywhere because I was painting upside down.  I’d also put on my best sandals instead of the old ones that I’d been working in all week, so my sandals now have attractive blue splodges all over them - next time I need to have a roller ready.

Last bit of painting, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Once in the water and clear of the travel lift slings, I started the engine, but after a minute we didn’t have any water coming out of our wet exhaust pipe, so I shut it off and in a mild panic, went to investigate.  I checked the sea water pump impellor which seemed to be okay and I couldn’t see anything else that was wrong, so I tried the engine again.  After ten seconds, I was pleased to see water spurting out of the exhaust, so I guess that it was just an air blockage.

We motored over to the fuel dock and topped up our fuel tanks.  They have a strange system here, because you have to pre-pay for fuel, which was a little awkward because I didn’t know how much I wanted up front - I had to overestimate and then had to go back to the marina office to get a credit.  The fuel is dispensed by a fuel barge and is geared up for much larger boats than ours, so we had to be very careful that the fuel was only dispensed slowly.  The fuelling guys were very proficient and even gave us a sample of the diesel with a label stating when it was dispensed.

We then took the boat out of the marina to do a short sea trial.  I wanted to make sure that the engine ran well after the timing belt had been changed and also that the rudder worked correctly.  We must have looked an odd sight as we pirouetted around the large ship anchorage just inside the Colon breakwater.  I ran the engine at various speeds including full revs (which sounds scary) and did various manoeuvres using the steering wheel and the autopilot, we even spent a few minutes going backwards at 3 knots to put different loads on the rudder.  All seemed to be working correctly, so we went into the marina and tied up in our allocated berth.  

We spent the afternoon chilling out, grateful not to have any more jobs to do.  In the evening, we went to the bar to have a celebratory dinner.

4 August 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
I woke up feeling pretty grim with some sort of virus – aching limbs, sour throat, etc.  We’d arranged to go for a walk with Jerry and Susan from “Vida Dulce”, so I went anyway – I was keen to try out the new hiking boots that I bought back in the UK.  It was a pleasant walk along a road through the jungle, with a small detour to a beach.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see much wild life although we did hear Howler Monkeys occasionally.

By the time that we arrived back at the boat two hours later, I was feeling decidedly grim, so after a quick bite to eat, I retired to my sick bed for a few hours.  Glenys went to the bar to play Mexican Dominos with some of the other cruisers and left me to suffer alone.

5 August 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
I had a restless night and woke up still feeling ill.  Greg the local mechanic came on board to check the engine alignment and found that the stern gland was wobbling a little bit.  He tweaked the alignment by lowering the front engine mounts by one turn and the wobble went away – it’s amazing how a little adjustment can make a big difference.  Hopefully, I won’t get any water leaking into the engine compartment now.

Glenys started the chore of cleaning the deck and coaming, which was looking very grubby after a month stuck in a marina and a week on the hard.  I had a relapse in the afternoon and spent most of it lying in bed reading a book and napping.

6 August 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
Glenys jumped out of bed at seven o’clock and caught the courtesy bus into the Quatro Altos shopping mall to buy provisions for the next four weeks.  I’m afraid that I was feeling so grim that I couldn’t drag myself off my back to go and help her.   I finally rose from my sick bed at ten o’clock, had breakfast, took some paracetamol and went back to bed.

Sorting through our medical supplies

Glenys arrived back at noon with five big bags of shopping, made lunch for me and then spent the afternoon continuing to cleaning the deck.  I lay in bed sweating out the virus – thank god for the air conditioning; I dread to think what it would have been like without it.

Arturo from Marine Warehouse arrived with our consignment of stuff from Florida.  I was very relieved when I unpacked my new guitar and found that it was the correct model and undamaged.  Unfortunately, I was feeling too grim to play it.

Glenys had bought some more medical supplies to add to the painkillers and antibiotics that we brought back from the UK, so she spent an hour sorting through everything and packing it away in water proof containers.

7 August 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
I woke up feeling much better and spent the day pottering about, getting ready to leave tomorrow.  I packed away the various spare parts that we received yesterday and installed the new sheets for the stay sail. Glenys continued on her mission to clean down the decks while we have lots of free fresh water available.  Our teak decks haven’t been cleaned for about a year and are now showing signs of mildew, mostly because they haven’t had any sea water on them for the past six weeks and it’s constantly raining.

While Glenys was going through her cleaning supplies, she came across various bottles of teak cleaning liquids left behind by the previous owner over two years ago – teak cleaner, teak brightener, teak oil, etc.  These went into the bin.  Instead, she used a mixture of 2/3rds cup of bleach, 3-4 tablespoons of tri-sodium and a dash of washing up liquid put into a bucket of water.  She swabbed this onto the teak deck with a sponge and swilled it off after leaving it to soak for ten minutes.  We never use a brush on our decks because it rips out the soft part of the teak and wears the deck away very quickly.  

I spent a couple of hours, swapping the strings on my guitars and cleaning my old one to sell it.  I’ve put some extra light strings onto my new guitar which are supposed to be better for finger-style playing.  They sound a little bit bright and “thin” to me, but I guess that I’ll get used to it.  I wrote out a notice to sell my old guitar, but don’t hold out much hope.  If I can’t sell it in the next couple of months, I’ll probably give it away to a local school - it's taking up too much space.  

I tried to get a zarpe from the port captain to get us to Porvenir in the San Blas islands, but I found out that he’s on holiday and I have to go to Colon to get the documents.  I’m not going to bother – it’ll take me at least 4 hours to go there and I don’t have the time or the inclination to do it.  I won’t clear in to the San Blas and will still have my current documentation when I come back to Shelter Bay.  There’s a slim chance that someone might want to inspect my papers in the San Blas islands, but I’ll just act ignorant about the procedures – at worst I’ll get a small fine, which will probably be less than it would cost me to get a zarpe in Colon.