Borta med Bengt

En resa

Panama again

Sunday 1 December 2019, Las Brisas, Panama

The last two weeks have past very quickly since we have been busy with going to the canal one more time as line handlers, buying and fitting new batteries and fixing a lot of small things. Later on the fridge stopped working causing us to try to find spare parts for that as well. The started battery also decided to take out his pension.

We have had lots of rain and thunderstorms, the wet season not being over yet, so we could catch lots of water in our water catcher. Since we are anchored in front of a very big city the water is not put in the tanks but in buckets for washing, showering, etc. Bengt gets very dirty here when it rains. Lots of soot and other stuff in the air making the deck black.

Our batteries lost their charge during the nights so we had to find new ones. There are several battery stores in town but they are far away which means taking a taxi to get new batteries to the boat so we tried the local chandleries here on Isla Perico and Flamenco first.
Global Marine sells Deka batteries and since they were willing to give a discount and deliver them to the dinghy dock we didn�'t walk further and ordered five 105 A deep-cycle batteries which can be used for solar charging (slow). We payed 1000 dollars for them. On Aruba we had looked at these batteries but the chandlery there wanted 285 dollars per battery. Here we payed 200 each.

Since the new batteries weigh 30 kilos each we had some help from Paul from �'Luna Mare�' to get them on Bengt. Our dinghy being too small for such a weight. It took a long time to get the old batteries out and the new ones in. We had bought 31 inch batteries while the old ones were 24 inch long. This gave some work with adjusting the cables and getting the supports in the right place. We have a special locker for the batteries with a screwed on lid so they don�'t go anywhere when Bengt gets knocked down in heavy seas. It was a very hot and windless day so lots of sweating. I was lying on a cushion with my head down in the locker dripping like a shower while Elisabeth lowered the batteries down so I could put them in their right place. All went well and the next day we took the old batteries ashore
to put them in the recycling bin. One of the guards on the dinghy dock started talking to us about all these batteries (7) so we asked if he wanted them. He didn�'t hesitate and took all seven batteries. We had eight but kept one to see if we could recharge it. When we bought these batteries five years ago we thought they were maintenance free but when we opened the lock of one with a screwdriver we could see that there was no water left in it although the voltage after more than 24 hours off charge was still 12,7 V. We filled one battery with battery-water and charged it. Seems to be ok as a spare. After all this sweating and lifting heavy batteries it felt good to take the dinghy to �'Notorious�' with Karsten and Jeannette for a well-deserved sundowner.

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New and old batteries

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The skipper trying to find out how the wiring is done

Friday morning Daniel from �'Nana�' came to pick us up and drove us to the dinghy dock since we were going to Colon to help our friends Neill and Heidi from �'Artemis�' with their transit. We took the bus to the Albrook terminal and walked to terminal 34 where the bus to Colon departs from. It took a while before the bus was full but then it drove to Colon on the Atlantic side in one hour for 3,5 dollars p.p. Since we were quit early we got off the bus in 4-Alto, the shopping centre, and did some shopping in the Rey supermarket before we took the shuttle-bus to Shelter Bay Marina. On the bus also Tobias from �'Maya�' who was going to be the fourth line-handler on �'Artemis�'.

In the marina Elisabeth jumped in the pool and had a long swim and hot shower. Heidi took care of the infected mosquito bite on my arm before it was time to let go of the lines and head out to �'The Flats�' to wait for the Advisor. The transit was not unlike ours. Some waiting and lots of rain. We nested with two other boats, the French �'Iroise�' and an American boat with a very loud-mouthed crew. In the up locks also a freighter and two tugboats. Elisabeth and I were line handlers on the front deck which turned out to be hard work since the turbulence in the locks was strong. We arrived at the buoy in Lake Gatun in the evening and after a warm night 'Artemis' motored to the Pacific side early the next morning. Here we had rain again but going down is easier than going up so all went well despite the rain. In
the evening we anchored next to Bengt in Las Brisas. After a drink, an iced Pina-colada, and snack we were picked up by Katharina from �'Nana�' who drove us back to our own boat. Katharina and Daniel had been cat-sitting for us.

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Tobias, Wim and Heidi

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Neill and the crew of 'Iroise'

Needless to say the day after, Sunday, was rest-day. We removed some mildew with the help of vinegar. The climate here is hot and very humid so mildew grows even on the outside of our lockers. Vinegar is very good to keep it away.

Next day, Monday, we took the dinghy ashore and went to town with Neill and Heidi so they could buy their bus card. The bus is cheap, 25 cents one way, but you need a bus card which can only be bought at the Albrook transport centre. We did some shopping at �'Super 99�' and �'Do-it�', the hardware store, before we took the bus back to Isla Perico. In the evening Neill, Heidi, Elisabeth and I were invited to Marc and Sylvie on �'Iroise�' for a sundowner. �'Iroise�' is a 43 ft French Privilege catamaran with a beautiful interior. We went through the canal together and were tied up to them on �'The flats�' with �'Artemis�' drinking coffee and waiting for the Advisors. Very nice people.

The rest of the week we did a lot of cleaning and fixing. The Aquair wind generator was taken apart since it had developed a �'ticking�' noise and did not want to start spinning in light winds anymore. I did not find anything strange inside but sanded down the rotors and stators with fine sandpaper since they were rusty. The bearings looked fine and got some grease but the ticking noise didn�'t disappear so I took it apart a second time to look for damages on the rotors or stators. Nothing was found so the solution is �'live with it�'. Most likely the shaft is bend a little since we pulled the propeller out of the water several times during our passage from Aruba to Panama. This is not so good for the generator since there are large forced involved. Bengt sailed very fast the first days of this passage and speeds went
regularly over 7 knots which is the speed limit for the generators propeller. By lengthening the line to 40 meters the surfacing of the propeller stopped.

We changed the engine oil and checked the hydraulic system in which we had to fill about 10 ml. The rudder bearings got some grease. This is easy to write, and read, but it involved taking our bed apart to get to the rudder bearings under it and crawling in the little opening to get the grease gun in place in order to be able to reach the grease nipple. The highest point in the hydraulic system is under the chart table which also meant removing stuff. Oil changing is always messy and this time was no exception (the electric pump broke down so we had to use the manual one). All this combined with the humid heat made for hard and sweaty work.
We had lots of �'Heidi�' coffee on �'Artemis�', dinner om �'Luna Mare�' and a visit of Christer from �'Hathorn�' of Göteborg. Elisabeth and Christer are old acquaintances, it was nice to talk some Swedish again and exchange books. Still lots and lots of rain and thunderstorms so we collected a lot of water with which we did the laundry.

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Christmas has come to Panama as well

�'Black�' Friday was a black day for us since our fridge stopped working. We did the �'black box�' test to see if the compressor was faulty. It was not. Works fine! The fault is in the �'red box�' of our Swedish Isotherm fridge. The �'red box�' replaces the thermostat of the Danfoss compressor. Since a new �'red box�' has to be send from the USA att a cost of around 300 dollars we skip this and buy a Danfoss thermostat instead. Not so intelligent as the �'red box�' but a lot cheaper and available here in Panama. Karsten and Jeannette came over for coffee and later in the evening we went over to �'Luna Mare�' for dinner. Here we were served a wonderful potato salad and grilled fish. Delicious!

Saturday saw us row over to Neill and Heidi to borrow their internet so we could check our digital mailboxes and drink coffee. They will sail for Las Perlas tonight. We had planned to sail there too but now we will have to go to town and search for a new thermostat on Monday. We also need a new starter battery. A very hot and humid day so not much done otherwise. The anchor chain was taken up 15 meters to clean it, it was very dirty after three weeks in the water.

Sunday was windless and hot. The little Christmas decorations we have were taken out of the lockers. Now we have some Santa�'s staring at us wondering where the snow is. Not much Christmas feeling in this heat.

Until next week! (hopefully not from Las Brisas)