The Joy of Cruising, NOT!
04 March 2012 | Panama City, Panama
Now which wire is the one?
March 3, 2012
The Joy of Cruising?
To be a good sailor, you have to be the eternal optimist. According to our Webster's dictionary, that would be a person who is inclined to always take a hopeful view. Now it's pretty easy to have a hopeful view about most things in life like, I hope our kids graduate from college, or I hope to be a grandmother someday. But when you live on a boat, and are 100% dependant that the systems will work for daily existence, and you are continually hit with system failure...it's hard to be "that" optimist. And that's where we are right now. We are in a slump...to say the least. We have had one thing after another go wrong. Larry tackles each problem enthusiastically, bless his heart, and he can usually fix most things, but with the cost of parts and having to hire the occasional mechanic or woodworker etc... it gets really expensive. And so it goes, as we sit here in not-so-lovely Panama City, waiting (im)patiently for new canvas to be sewn (this is a good thing though as our old dodger was literally falling apart) trying to make all of our repairs but things are breaking faster than we can get them repaired. Ugh! Sorry, I don't mean to be such a whiner. I know a lot of people would dream of having our life, but as I've said before...it's not easy.
Panama City is just exhausting...and dirty...and has some really rude people, and some of the worst restaurants I have ever been to with really bad service, and horrible traffic, and some really aggressive taxi drivers who charge you triple the rate a local would pay - just because you're a tourist. This city is missing some of the common sense things like a sign on the outside of the building that would actually say "Immigration", for example. Efficiency? It is unheard of here. And to top it all off, most people do not speak English. Now that is my problem I know, I should be able to speak the language of the country I'm in, but boy does it make it hard. I know just enough to get myself in trouble most of the time. So at the end of the day I usually end up with a pounding headache asking myself, "What are we doing?" On the other hand, we have met some very nice Panamanians, and some very sweet taxi drivers. We have amazing gelato several times a week having several ice cream shops to choose from, and we have our very best cruising buddies here with us who continually supply us with love and support.
So, what all has gone wrong you ask? First off our generator started acting up in November. It just randomly wouldn't start. No generator means we can't run the water maker to fill our tanks, we can't keep our refrigerator and freezer cold, we can't turn on the air conditioners, we can't recharge our house bank of batteries so that we have electricity for the rest of the day, we can't run the washing machine, AND we can't watch TV! Next, we blew our high pressure hose on our water maker. It is a stainless steel hose that handles 1500psi having special fittings which, of course, they don't have in Central America. After several stops at hydraulic stores to no avail, and keep in mind what I explained earlier about taking a taxi around this city, we ended up at an auto supply store that was able to do a crude repair to get us by until we could ship a new hose in from the states. Thankfully there was a very nice customer there who spoke English and was able to translate what we needed. Shipping is a whole other story. Another words for you American folks, don't ever complain about the United States Postal Service. Our next hair raiser was a little incident that happened on our way back out to the Perlas Islands. All was well, we were happily motor sailing along, Ben just caught a fish and released it and we were about an hour away from Isla Contadora where we were stopping for the night. Larry goes to shift the gear into forward after having it in neutral for a few minutes while Ben made his fish release and...nothing happens. Uh-oh, this is not good. Larry tried to figure out what was wrong but couldn't. Our engine would go vroom, but the boat wouldn't move in the water. Well, we are a sailboat after all and these are truly the times when you can feel that you are in God's hands. The wind was perfect for us to sail right into the anchorage, the anchorage was virtually empty, and we had two friends already there to standby in their dinghy's in case we needed a nudge to stay off a reef or if we lost our wind when we got into the lee of the island. It could have been so much worse in the wrong conditions. It turns out that the propeller shaft separated from the transmission. Four big bolts had apparently overtime loosened and through vibration fell off. Boats have sunk from this because if the propeller shaft works its way all the way out then you suddenly have a 1.5" diameter hole in the bottom of your boat with water gushing in. Once again, thank you God, for protecting us from something that could have been much worse. Larry was able to find 3 (of course) out of the four nuts that came off. So, here we are, in the middle of nowhere, trying to scrounge up a nut that can get us by until we return to the mainland. That was a good 8 hour day of hard labor for Larry to get us going again and go we did - this was on our way to our Darien trip that I last wrote about. If you recall from my last writing, this is where our dinghy engine troubles began. Upon return to the big city, frustrated that our brand new, expensive outboard was not working, going back to the Yamaha Store to nicely explain this in my best Spanish and also dreading the thought of humping the 79 lb engine onto land and to the store was cause of a lot of anxiety. Turned out they were very nice and helpful and the blame was all on us - water in the engine. We're not sure if we got some bad fuel or if when we swamped the dinghy several weeks before that did it, the bad was on us and we owned it for the tune of $54.00. Continuing on - the moody generator that has been giving us trouble for four months now, has really taken a toll on us. Grateful that we have a terrific mechanic, Kenny (507) 6648-7202) who has painstakingly troubleshot the problem; we think we will have it resolved in a few days. Throw in a few days that one of our toilets refused to continue to work and our fresh water pump that supplies the sinks, showers, and toilets with water mysteriously would not stop pumping yet wouldn't pump out any water, and you get a clear picture of the joys of cruising.
Now all of this would not have been so bad if there was a marina to pull into here, plug into power at the dock, and have access to fresh water. There are two marinas here, Flamingo being a nice, easy place to pull into for diesel/gas/water, but does not have any slips available for the transient cruiser. La Playita Marina is a new marina that opened about a year ago but you wouldn't know it by the conditions. We have had a slip there three times, anywhere from a couple of days to a week, but it is really expensive - like $3000/month - and really pretty yucky. The marina manager, Jose, has made me so uncomfortable by kissing me on several occasions (in a too friendly manner) up near the laundry room, that it has really creeped me out and Larry would like to inflict great bodily harm on him. We never greased Jose's palm, which now we understand might be the problem, as he will not give us permission to come in and even get 100 gallons of diesel. Whatever, but it just really leaves a bad taste in our mouths for Panama City.
We usually are able to see the beauty in most places that we go so I apologize for sounding rather negative here. I do feel a responsibility though, for our fellow cruisers, to kind of give them a heads up if they are heading this way. I also can say that there are plenty of cruisers here that absolutely love it, and are spending an extended amount of time here.
Thank you; Eyes of the World - Rick and Karen - for your ever positive attitude, help, donations of spare parts etc..., Kenny - who has gone above and beyond as a mechanic, Rapscullion and Precious Metal - Henry and Pamela - who went through every spare nut and bolt on their boat to fix our propeller shaft, Stolen Kiss - Cheryl and Peter - who came over, took his shirt off and said, "Let me at it", and Rachel lll - Sylvia and Mark - who are so proud that they rescued a firefighter in distress when our dinghy engine died one night and we were floating out to sea! All of you have earned as we like to say, a lot of "boat points", which essentially is good boat karma!
Hopefully the next time I write, we will have transited the canal and are basking in the glorious Caribbean waters of the San Blas Islands.