Wednesday 27 November 2013
Whatever one might surmise after reading a few entries, this is a cruising blog... well, anyway, the excuse for it relates specifically to living on a boat and sailing around. So, we're in Belize, in a condo, with full flow running water, cable TV, conditioned air, awash in luxury. There's little here that pertains to the ostensible purpose, so not much appropriate to say. However, not wanting to let everyone off the hook, here is a random aberrant thought:
You've no doubt heard disparaging things about Dracula, but seems to me he's getting a bum rap. He's "the undead" right? What's wrong with that? I'm undead. Many of you are too. I like it that way. He gets to live forever, right? He can get small and fly around, stay up all night partying with great looking women, wear cool clothes with a cape. He can help others be undead too. Isn't that a good thing? This whole vampire matter has been cast in a terrible and undeservedly bad light primarily because of a slightly eccentric dietary requirement. Also Italian food is a no no and daylight can ruin your day, but all in all it seems like a pretty good deal. So burn that stake; throw away that garlic; hide that crucifix. Go find a bat and give him a big sloppy kiss.
Tuesday 26 November 2013
Quick, but uneventful motor to Golfito, arriving by 0900, Saturday. There's mountainous jungle just across the coast highway populated with a whole pant- load of critters: several types of parrots, toucans, monkeys out the wazoo, vociferous frogs, iguanas, coatimundi and huge numbers of vultures to take care of all the inevitable dead stuff (we try to move an appendage now and again just in case).
First evening on their mooring within spitting distance of Land Sea Services, us aboard and dinghy tied to stern, a swimmer cut painter and waited for it to drift off. No wind so it didn't go far before Jan, who was in the cockpit, noticed. Proprietor, Tim, went out to fetch it as a swimmer was observed moving away. Welcome to Costa Rica, gringo. Everyone seems very friendly and the place is beautiful, but it's hard to shake the bad taste while now being constantly warned.
As customs only works Tuesday through Friday we finally checked in today. They require original boat documentation form and have made boats return to Panama without. Next time I'll scan and print a copy to see if they can tell the difference, I can't.
In Golfito all taxis are red; not all red cars are taxis; here comes a red car, therefore the driver may have change for 2000 Colones. Slept in and missed syllogism class, but pretty sure that's right. 500 Colones is about a buck and you can go anywhere within walking distance for $2.40 except the air patch where rules are all different.
Obtained passes to Costa Rica's only free zone nearby from which we will, before departure, purchase a few items including that 60" flat screen TV I've been jonesing for which may, possibly, fit forward saloon bulkhead and several cases of wine - except for the TV.
Thursday 21 November 2013
Careful scrutinization of last two entries reveals incomplete reportage of the four required projects (and, if you have employed really good scrutinizatiousness, a non-listed 5th). Spectra doesn't leak; makes good water. Nuvair; still not tested. Panda raw water pump has been removed, cleaned, re-"O"ringed and is currently operating; report to follow - someday - maybe. Oils changed (this was the easy one). Forgot to list lifelines; done. All five effected systems are probably, maybe, at least temporarily in proper working order... perhaps.
Itemization of newest plan ensues: Two dives today incorporating bottle refills with soon to be demonstrated perfectly functioning compressor. Move to north end of Jicaron because of, once again, excessive rolling overnight. Possible morning dive, then overnight to Golfito for clearance into Costa Rica, Saturday, so as to fly out Monday for Belize. Sounds so simple. Probably will be... uh huh.
Would have been an excellent dive with clearer water - lots of big fish, large schools, a larger than normal, curious white tip reef shark and a wee turtle. Humongous trigger fishes. Eric Stone sings that the Humahumanukunukuapua'a, Hawaii's state fish, might bite off toes. These could take a hand. Unfortunately compressor motor, having a sulk that extended into happy hour, was barely able to almost fill one tank. Guessing difficulty due excessive 'repairs' (e.g. goo to seal carburetor gasket) accomplished before changing spark plug. Bummer!
At least northside anchorage is reasonably calm, so far. In grand strategy, itemized above, we're 1 for 3 (includes no dive tomorrow). Quite sanguine about overnight sail (motor), but less so for clearing in Saturday and making flight Monday. Hoping to break 500 (that's baseball lingo indicating greater than 50% success rate for those who have never heard of the sport or think it is more boring than fishing shows or cricket or those who think cricket is exciting and/or watch soccer which is more properly called football since it's played primarily with the feet - American football should be named something else).
Still early, but events so far are proceeding swimmingly (except for the swimming); i.e. rain stopped, there's a breeze, made coffee, woke up, connected to SSB email without generator assisted voltage increase, departed Isla Jicaron without mishap, made more coffee, woke up, connected to SSB email with generator assisted voltage increase. Bullish on balance of day.
Thursday 14 November 2013
So let's see, we left the adventure in the throws of partial and total incompletion, 2 each. Our wonderfully helpful friend, Andy, from Uruguay, Germany, Panama, Brasil, etc. found, for us (after some considerable effort) what he hoped to be compatible spark plugs and 3 spares for dive compressor motor (Honda 5.5), but we were distracted by grocery shopping (an escapade that took us in an entirely different direction than initially envisioned) after which gin & tonic provided a necessary and uniquely proper recovery. Nuvair was left to its own devices until following morning.
Having agreed to meet Andy after noon for additional exploration of P city to find fix for lifeline turnbuckle fitting that failed during Canal transit (another about to go) it was necessary to first confirm efficacy of new Autolites. Supposition that original plug was deficient was sublimely confirmed as motor cranked on first pull repeatedly and pressure (induced by adjustment of previously eased overpressure valve) increased to 2900 PSI (optimum 3200) before protective stopper (not meant for such service) failed with rather an impressive detonation. Undamaged by flying plastic, feeling quite sanguine now about success and overcome with a more customary, but lately and regrettably unfulfilled slothfulness, didn't take the trouble to remove already full air tanks from lazarette for complete test.
Not really up to elucidating the convoluted machinations involved in numerous stops to determine that no standard, only metric, turnbuckles are available, are anyway threaded opposite direction and that, after more stops, finally finding someone who subsequently did a miserable job of welding broken part, so won't. No worries as, although we can still be catapulted over them, going through lifelines is again highly unlikely.
Due excruciatingly coagulated traffic, opportunity to view every back street, side street and alley between Albrook central bus station and Amador during taxi ride home was more exciting, but conceivably less safe, than the Wild Mouse ride at a carnival. Dinner with Andy, Patricia and their restive four-year-old, Jan (Yan), was a delightful end to an interesting and, in retrospect, essentially productive day.
Too late to get stamped out by immigration yesterday afternoon, we enjoyed minimal sleep for hike in early to discover that agent, Erick Galvez, had poorly served us by not getting expensive paid-for Visas inserted into passports; that immigration at Isla Flamenco would not therefore provide her blessing and instead sent us to port authority who demanded issuance of new zarpe to replace old one that, although authorizing us to Costa Rica and would have been fine with them, had expired, but anyway, which couldn't be done until immigration had finished with us; that the only people who had the Visa stamp were in Diablo; and, finally, that without the help of our friend might not ever have been found because no one, including policia, knew where it was. The $83.70 that this special attention extracted from us (after assurance by agent there would be no further charges) was the least exasperating part of the experience.
Planned sail to Isla Otoque this afternoon to stage for rounding Punta Mala was scuttled as dealing with Panamanian bureaucracy had gone too late to allow arrival comfortably before dark, had crushed our delicate psyches and would have delayed imbibement of adult beverage... OK, it was really just that last thing.
Been feeling a bit punk lately, probably due coffee withdrawal (ran out of Keurig K-Cups), so ground beans for our plunger (French press) and injected caffeine into flaccid bloodstream. Perkiness returned and life again took on meaning.
Recent proceedings: Daysail to Otoque, overnight to Bahia Arenas and run the 51 NM today to Isla Jicarita (just south of Jicaron which is just south of Coiba, largest island in the Mesoamerican Pacific); all but three hours under motor due no wind; all rolly including anchorages, same reason. Expecting better tonight (a triumph of hope over experience?). Location reported as having excellent diving, so expecting two dives tomorrow using dive compressor that should work flawlessly (another TOHOE?). Expecting to arrive Golfito, Costa Rica, Saturday, leaving boat awhile for flight to visit friend in Belize (pushing expectation limits?).
Apologize for the indecent pleonasm (is that a great word or what?). Will endeavor more pithiness in future.
Wednesday 13 November 2013
There were four primary to-dos (translates to 'everything' in Spanish, which is a bad word when considering items requiring maintenance) before leaving Panama City: 1) Replace 3 water-maker (a misnomer as it doesn't actually 'make' water) filters, 2) Get dive compressor operating properly (critical word is 'properly'), 3) Stop leak in Panda raw water pump and 4) Change both engines' oil.
Easy peasy. Should be able to knock out filters, oil change and pump gasket in a day, right? Take the filters. It's a matter of unscrewing the bowl, removing old filter, rinsing out and sticking in new filter. Let's be lavish and say 30 minutes per unit plus 30 minutes to disassemble and reassemble hanging locker behind which they reside - two hours tops, right?
Yesterday was the day. Charcoal filter took 15 minutes; sediment filters took 'todo' else (see, bad word!), as mating surfaces were buggered and sealer (AKA glue) had been used to prevent leaks. While unmounting for access (2 hoses with clamps and 19 screws), disassembling, cleaning and resurfacing the double unit, discovered other complications (quelle surprise) and enough missing or faulty bits that a trip into Abernathy's chandlery was necessary. Sewerage, trash and petroleum products in water require leak testing elsewhere, so still not done.
Angst from Tuesday experience served to elicit (although illicit words may have been uttered yesterday, that is a completely different thing) zero consideration today for more than one project - dive compressor. Foreboding was warranted as it took all day to purge old gas for new, re-re-re-re-re-clean carburetor using newly purchased, special gasket lacquer to reassemble (had not the minutest desire to begin second task while waiting for this gunk to dry, so practiced vegetating), cleaning flywheel and ignition coil and putting it all back together with... absolutely no response. Finally found weak sparkage and, after a stern warning and messing with gap, got the machine to run and partially pressurize, but pretty sure plug is basically knackered. Purchase of new one (if findable) anticipated for tomorrow, so still not done.
Bottom line here is that 2 of 4 undertakings under consideration have been undertaken and overwhelming success has been overridden by under-achievement due to underestimation and overoptimistic understanding of underlying factors creating understandable distress. Understand that under no circumstance will we proceed under sail, even under penalty of reprisal by customs underlings, until all is under control. Understand?
Monday 11 November 2013
Pleased to announce that this operation is safely ensconced at Las Brisas de Amador with a beautiful view of Panama City. Canal transit was easiest ever as, for the 6 locks, we rafted to other boats tied to a wall - no line handling at all. Nevertheless, the three guys who volunteered, all from (or nearly so) Uruguay, handled the business of tying to the other boats eagerly and well and were a delight to have aboard.
Uruguay, for the 95% of you who said to yourself, "huh?", is the second smallest country in South America (after Suriname (huh?)). It is located in a fluvial plain (huh?... OK, you're just going to have to look up some of this yourself) on the Atlantic coast between Argentina and Brazil; capitol Montevideo. Settled in 1680, it is a democratic, constitutional republic, is one of the most advanced and prosperous countries on the continent and ranks very well in the Democracy Index, Freedom in the World Index and the Corruptions Perceptions Index. Don't everyone move there at once, but you could do way worse.
Since today is a holiday (it was suggested that Panama has more public holidays than anybody on earth. In fact, they have only 11 (compared to, for example, Spain with 30), but 5 are in November including this one for an uprising against Spain. (Actual independence from Spain is celebrated on the 28th)), we will just hang out and explore the neighborhood. Since little is open today this is a perfect opportunity to procrastinate changing filters on the Spectra and trying to find a raw water leak on the Panda rather than waiting until there are lots of things to do. If you followed that you should retire and go cruising.
"There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it." - Mary Wilson Little