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s/v Always & All Ways
A Good Long Day.
02/21/2011, San Blas Islands, Panama

I was up and making coffee by 6:00. Around 6:50 I saw Dave & Lisa's plane approaching so I jumped in dink and headed over to the airport, arriving just as they stepped out of the plane. The pilot unloaded the luggage (small crew) and handed it to them (including our new folding props and other goodies they brought for us!) and we dinghied back to the boat. After coffee and breakfast, Lisa decided she needed a nap before facing more of the day so she snoozed in the hammock while Deb, Dave & I went in search of water. Federico had water in 5 (or 6) gallon jugs and loaded 8 of them into the dinghy. While Deb & Dave explored the island, I took them back to the boat and poured them into the tank without ever waking Lisa. I returned and Federico had another 4 jugs filled. That brought our tanks right to “Full” so we were all set. Total cost $15.00. Back at the boat, Lisa still needed more nap and Deb decided she needed one too so Dave & I had a beer (home brew) and just hung out for a bit. By noon everyone was refreshed. We had lunch (“chicken bread” a sort of empanada Dave had bought in town – very good) and then loaded the dinghy for our trip up Rio Diablo. I had watched a couple ulu's go through the entrance, so I was fairly confident of our route. The outboard only grounded out briefly and we were across the delta and on our way. The river was as magical as before. We past all the little fincas the Kuna had established, past the grave sights with the plastic chairs for “visiting” with the dead, and past wondrous birds and plants. We continued up past where the water pipe emerges from the hillside to bring water to the islands (4” PVC). Above there the water got thin and we stopped in a shady place for wine and home made pita bread. We then drifted slowly back down the river passing several Kuna families on their way up river. At a sandy beach, we stopped for a swim in the nice fresh water – not even brackish a bit. The water was cool and refeshing but the bottom was hot! The bottom was silt and I don't think it could be radiant heating as the deeper areas were actually hotter. It must be geothermal. Very weird and fun. After a nice swim, we resumed our journey down river and made it back to the boat uneventfully. It was still only 3:30 so we decided we had time to move. We weighed anchor and motorsailed the short distance back to Garnirguinnitdup, this time anchoring in the shallower circle of sand that we had last year. Perfect set first try and we are sitting over beautiful sandy bottom in crystal clear water of about 12'. Mojitos in the cockpit and conch fritters for dinner before and early bed. What a great day!

Repairs in Paradise Part II.
02/19/2011, San Blas Islands, Panama

Today I tackled the roller furler. There was the usual 10-15 kt trade wind so it promised to be interesting. We unfurled it, fighting the halyard wrap all the way. As Deb held the sheets so it wasn't flapping too bad, I loosed the halyard and pulled the sail down and out of the groove in the furler, piling it on the tramp. It actually went easier than I had imagined. Once the sail was down and the halyard bearing was at eye level, I looked it over carefully. The good news is that there were no obvious serious defects. The bad news is that there was no obvious cause for our problems. Pushing ans pulling while rotating, I could not create and catch or binding. I removed the halyard shackle and the cover of the unit. All the bearings seemed OK. I sprayed the heck out of everything with silicone spray and put it back together. Raising the sail was a bit tougher, but with Deb feeding it in, I hauled on the halyard and then used the winch to raise it all the way while only getting mildly whipped by the flogging sail. When we got it secured, I furled it smooth as can be. We'll see, but maybe all it needed was a little lubrication?! With time to think about it, I decided to take another look at the freezer compressor. I removed the fancy Temp Tech controller and hitched it up factory. Shorting out the thermostat, I was very pleased to hear it come to life! I had hooked up my gauges ahead of time and it pulled the pressure down just on schedule. OK, step one. I cleaned the Temp Tech controller and reinstalled it; still no go. Back to the basic set up. Now what to do about a thermostat? The original was rusted frozen so that now adjustment was possible, but maybe it will work. I tested the leads, no continuity. Then I pulled the unit out of the freezer so that I could work on it without losing cold. With the probe exposed to warm air, the contacts closed. It works! Clean it up a bit and reinstall it. But now how can I monitor the temp to be sure it is really freezing? Well, I took the temp sensor from the Temp Tech and plugged it in to the refrigerator module. The thermostat only controls the display so it should not affect the operation of the refrigerator. Sure enough it showed a temp of 28* and falling. The compressor cycles off and on like it should and the temp is now down to 24*. I'll see what it is by morning and I can adjust it by changing the amount of the sensor tube from the thermostat that is in contact with the cooling coil. I think we have a solution! Two for two on boat problems. Now if only I could have some effect on the watermaker! No luck. I called Thoimas @ Yacht Services and they have basically done NOTHING! I ranted for a while and finally got him to promise that as of Monday they would do a total rebuild and be ready to ship it to me by next Saturday when Dave & Lisa fly back to NH. Hopefully we can fill our tanks in Nargana. Reportedly Frederico will bring water to your boat in many 5 gallon jugs. Slow process, but it it works..... We finally left our idyllic little anchorage by 3:30 and sailed slowly at first then more rapidly to Corizon de Jesus. We ran down wind with just gennie. Started @ 2.3 kts. then climbed to 5.0 as a black rain cloud threatened. We never got wet, but there was a great rainbow over the airstrip. As we were looking for a spot to anchor, we spotted our friends from Bocas, France and Bernard. They were here to pick up a charter tomorrow AM. We anchored next to them. Took two tries to get a good set, but we are comfortably close and comfortably far as we sit. Dave & Lisa arrive @ 6:45 AM tomorrow. Looking forward to a great time.

Cruising is boat repair in exotic places
02/18/2011, San Blas Islands, Panama

Hey, I wrote a blog with that title last year! That time it was about repairing the dinghy. This year.... It started when I got out the hookah. The cover for the tube that it floats in was badly raveled and coming apart at the handles. I asked Deb if she could fix it and she did. While she was doing that, I decided to drain what little gas there was left in the tank and replace it with fresh. Now I had drained the carburetor before putting it away, but the gas was a year old so I figured it had better go. I opened the drain to the carb bowl and turned on the gas, caught a small container full, turned off the gas, dumped into bigger container, repeat. Tank dry (and there WAS some crud in it. Refill tank with fresh gas. Start engine. It runs and then coughs and dies like a fouled carb. Hmmm, maybe draining the gas THROUGH the carb was not such a great idea. OK, take engine off base (4 bolts), remove float bowl, notice that the nail glue (had no super glue) repair that I did last year had failed, but that did not seem to be the problem, removed jets and cleaned. This time I had not only super glue but also PLASTIC super glue which is a two set process that is really incredible on any plastics. So I treated and glued the float support back in place. Time to eat lunch while it sets. Reached into freezer and realized things were getting soft. And the coil was not cold even though the light said it was running. Another repair. Turn it off and let it set while I eat lunch and then I'll hook up my gauges and see if it needs freon. (The compressor has to cool off before you can get accurate readings upon startup.) Removed all our stores from under the salon settee, crawled under and hooked up the gauges, had Deb turn it on, NOTHING. Green light indicated electricity, but compressor didn't run nor did fan. I tried eliminating the fancy solid state control and just hooked up the compressor directly, still nothing. Looks like compressor is dead, which is odd as it was working so well (17* in freezer). Anyway, not something I am going to get fixed now. Thank heaven for redundancy. Fired up the port engine and ran the engine mounted compressor to freeze the holding block. Will probably take 2 hours now and an hour twice a day, but we can keep things frozen. Back to the hookah. Put everything back together, fired it up, same problem. Took it apart again, more crud in float bowl. Scaped and cleaned the float bowl real well, sprayed everything with carb cleaner, and ran gas out the needle valve to be sure that was clear. Put it all back together, runs fine. I blow up the tube get the hookah mounted on the tube and attach the hoses. Deb and I get into our dive skins, don weight belts, fins and masks and prepare to dive. While we are getting ready, I launch hookah and fire it up. It floats out the distance of the hoses (60') running happily. Then just as we are to go in the water, it dies. &^^$%$ I pull it back in prepared to tear it down yet again only to find that I had turned the fuel OFF. It ran that long on what was in the bowl. I open the fuel shut off, fire it up and it runs perfectly. This will be a shallow dive anyway (only ~20') so if it does die, no big deal. But it didn't. We enjoyed a very successful conch hunt ans also found some other pretty shells. There was quite a current running against us (we, of course, chose to swim against the current first and then with it back to boat.) I had to pull Deb along as she barely made headway against it on her own. I think the problem is that we are near high tide and there is a lot of water pouring in over the reef. At falling or low tide it would probably be better. Anyway, hookah ran without a hitch, his old reliable self, we got several conch and the freezer is back below freezing, so my repairs in exotic places went well. Tomorrow I have to tackle the problem of he roller furler, but I just realized that I can drop the gennie onto the net (that will be a thrash in this trade wind) and work on it from the net rather than going up the mast and trying to do it there. Not that I mind going up the mast, but invariably I need some other tool or part and end up going up the mast 3 or 4 times and that does get tiring.

This IS the place!
02/17/2011, San Blas Islands, Panama

We decided that Miryadup was not all that enchanting and given that it was overcast this morning and we had to travel one of the next three days, we decided to make it today. After looking at all the options, I chose a zig-zag course of about 15 nm. that took us from Mirayadup to Garnirguinnitdup, a deserted island just N of Nargana and Corizon de Jesus. The zig-zag was required because we had to move one level out in the system of reefs that run parrallel to the mainland in most of San Blas. It also was needed if we wanted to sail as the wind (as always) was from the NE and so we went ESE, NNW, ESE as we jogged outside a set of reefs. Easier to do than explain. We had a beautiful sail and as we were sailing, the sun came out and it was just lovely! This beautiful island is surrounded by reef except for a small tongue of brilliant green water over a sandy bottom. That, of course, is where we anchored. We are having a real problem with the roller furler on the genoa wrapping the halyard and jamming, so of it is calm tomorrow, I'll go up the mast and see what the problem is. (The rigger who inspected our mast and rigging before we left Bocas was supposed to look at and fix it, but obviously forgot.) As we entered the anchorage (no other boats in sight), we both had a feeling of deja vu', but we couldn't agree which island it was. Was it the one that we worked in close to shore and anchored, was it the rolly one where waves wrapped around the end of the reef, or was it the one where we got all the conch? As we got closer in, it didn't look like the one to try to get in as close to shore as possible, so we anchored in about 15' over beautiful sand (watching the anchor hit and the chain play out). Later I looked up our old log of the San Blas and this is the “lots of conch” cay. So, I guess we'll have to go looking for them! Before doing that, Deb made a Key Lime pie for desert and I epoxied the foot pedals and seats in place in kayak. Now we are getting ready to go conch hunting.

She floats!
02/16/2011, San Blas Islands, Panama

Today, for the first time, we launched the double kayak I made. It ended up a bit heavier than planned, mostly because of the crappy plywood that was all that was available in Panama. As a result I had to fiberglass both inside and out to strengthen it, adding significant weight. Still, she rode very comfortably on the forward deck even through some fairly rough weather and Deb & I can carry her down the length of the big boat and launch her off the stern. After she proved she would float, I christened her "Lovely" with a bottle of New Year's Bitter pouring the first draught over her bow, the second to Neptune, and the third to the builder (me). Getting in from the stern steps proved "interesting" but neither of us fell in the water or capsized the kayak so all together I would consider that a success if not the most graceful process. We do have to figure out what to do with the paddles while entering and exiting the kayak. Any suggestions Curry? Once we were in and floating, we cast off from the mother ship and paddled in to shore. She paddles very easily and tracks well. It takes about 2" of water to float both of us, but we ground out @ 1". I made two paddles, a shorter one for Deb and a longer one for me. It turns out that especially in very shallow water, the long paddle is too long and the shorter paddle works much better for me. In deep water, the longer paddle is OK, but the shorter is still better. I'll have to make an even shorter one for Deb to try and see which she prefers. I can always take the long one and cut it in half and then rejoin it with an aluminum ferrule with holes to allow it to be twisted or "feathered" as well as shortened. I can adjust the angle to something between 45* & 90* and see which angle (if any) I like best. We paddled along the shore and out towards the reef (maybe 100 yards off shore). Deb wouldn't let me go all the way to the reef and surf the waves (it was our first kayak trip), but there was a little tiny surf break (like 6") inside where the depth went from 10" to 3" and we rode that in. Maybe tomorrow we will go in where the water is waist deep and see how stable she is (or isn't) I have a feeling she is a lot more stable than she initially seems. Once seated, we are only ~1" off the bottom and the bottom is flat with a good flare to the chine so I'll bet she is actually pretty hard to tip over once you are in. Getting in and out is another story, but we are slowly figuring that one out. We managed to dock back with the mother ship and disembark without going swimming as well, so all is good. This morning we went ashore to "Clear In" at Porvinir. The port captain to our zarpe from Bocas and we were done. He didn't want to see hips papers, passports, anything. Porvinir had been spruced up quite a bit since we were here last year. Buildings were painted nicely and a couple nice new ones under construction. We decided to sail part way towards Corizon de Jesus (where we will pick up Dave & Lisa Sunday) and anchor at an island where we can hopefully have the anchorage to ourselves and stay put for a day to just kick back and relax. On the morning net, it was "Boat count Wednesday" and each boat was to give the number of other boats in their anchorage. The final official tally was more than 150 cruising boats in the San Blas, so finding an isolated anchorage, especially in the Western San Blas, is harder than it might be. We left a single reef in the main and with all of gennie sailed ESE in a nice 15 kt. NE breeze. Inside the San Blas the water is all protected and flat - much like Belize. Sailing 6 kts in flat water with a nice breeze sure is nice after bashing about outside! We are anchored off a beautiful deserted island named, Miryadup. The anchor is totally buried in sand in about 15' of water, but the boat is sitting in 50' only 150' back. Had we gone another boat length, we would have run aground as it went from 15' to 3' in about 30'. Miryadup is part of a chain of islands all protected by a barrier reef that is about 6 nm long. We are actually anchored not in the lee of the island, but to its E so that we get the cool Caribbean breezes. The reef blocks all wave action so we are very comfortable. As we were coming in to anchor a native ulu (dug out canoe) with an outboard went by. Upon seeing us intend to anchor, they stopped and waited. They had a pretty long wait. The first time we tried to anchor, we did so in the lee of the island. It was scattered coral and sand. We seemed to hook, then dragged, hooked, dragged, just couldn't get secure. When we pulled the anchor back up, we found out why. The tip of the anchor had lodged quite firmly in a chunk of coral that weight probably 200 #. (The windlass protested raising it!) It was firmly attached and would not fall of by dropping the anchor and shaking it. So, we went over to a section of the reef where the slope was a bit more gradual, dropped the anchor and coral in ~20' of water and then motored forward until the anchor pulled free. Fortunately that worked before we ran aground! We then went back and anchored just off the island where we are now sitting very comfortably. When it was clear that we were done anchoring, the ulu approached. It turned out to be Venancio, the master mola maker whom we had met (and bought molas from) last year. His creations are truly works of art with detail so tiny it is amazing. We invited him aboard and he spread out well over 100 molas to choose from. After he had laid out the entire stock, he pick up each one in turn and either put it back in his tupperware tub or set it aside as "maybe" according to Deb's direction. Then Deb went through the "maybe"s and finally bought three. His prices range from $20 to well over $100 and seem fair considering the work and talent involved. We have tried to arrange to meet him again next week when Dave & Lisa will be with us as I am sure they would love to see his work. We have his card with is phone number so I think we can make it happen.

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