My First Charter

Holy mackerel

Holy mackerel

Anchoring in Carti was a nightmare.  We almost parked S/V NOMAD on the reef.  Then we were forced to anchor in deep water.  Because the anchorage was questionable, I sent Chels and Damo to shore for the shopping and I stayed onboard in case the damn anchor pulled.  Good thing, because the damn anchor pulled.  And suddenly my ass-end was in 2 meters of water with a hard bottom, and that 2 meters was shrinking.  No bueno.

So I lifted anchor and moved my boat into deeper water where it was safer.  Of course that meant I had to let out tons of rode, and that I’d invariably pull anchor slowly – but at least I wouldn’t punch a hole in my bottom.  Damo and Chels made it back and we ran out of that horrible anchorage to East Lemmon Cay – where we picked up our guests.

The "grocery store"

The “grocery store”

Provisions

Provisions

No Water

With 5 people onboard, you burn through water.  There’s no way around it.  People do start to get the hint when the water runs out though.  I (of course) have an emergency drinking stash of water, so we’re fine.  It’s actually a good exercise as it’ll keep us conserving water after our charter guests leave.  And it taught me just how deficient my watermaker is right now.  Part of that is related to my battery bank.

No Energy

It all started in Puerto Lindo.  I went out for  a quick drink (I think?) with a friend.  Or maybe to borrow something.  Anyways, I was off the boat, and I hadn’t had the opportunity to show my new crew how to monitor the batteries onboard.  With the last few months of cloudy weather and no sun, we were consuming WAY more energy than we were giving back into the batteries.  So, I got back onboard – and the batteries were so low that they wouldn’t crank my engine (my fault, as I left the battery switch in the wrong location).  That was a sign, as normally that wouldn’t have happened – my batteries were in rough shape.

Well, since then, we’ve been fighting cloudy days.  And I’ve learned the battery bank is failing.  It’s not taking a charge, and dumping the charge immediately.   That’s impacting my ability to make water, because my watermaker needs 12.5 volts at the watermaker (meaning it must travel through the wiring, where it looses voltage).  With my battery banks not taking a charge over 12.4, by the time that energy makes it to my watermaker – it’s not enough to produce meaningful water.  ‘Nuff said.

Something Nasty

I caught a bug.  It was a stomach bug (I think).  It started with all the signs of a stomach bug.  But then it progressed into lightheadedness, cramps, some chills, and then a fever.  Crazy, nasty stuff.  I wasn’t sleeping well, pushing pretty hard freediving, and sweating gallons in the engine room.  And there was some stuff going on at home that kept me a little stressed – so it was understandable.  The good news is that it was only a couple of days worth.  And though it did happen during the charter, my awesome crew (thanks Chels and Damo!!!!) really covered my ass and kept everything operating smoothly.  We think it was the pate.  We had a bleu cheese and pate lunch one day – it was delicious, but it was likely the cause of my stomach woes.

Black Smoke

Well, on the way back from Carti (to provision) my portside engine just cut out.  Completely dead.  That’s a problem, because it’s pretty tough to anchor on a single engine.  We had trouble starting it, and I decided that were were going to hang outside of the anchorage, drop the dinghy, and tie the dinghy to the port side to help steer into the anchorage.  Before I did that I tried the old diesel hard-start trick of a rag of WD40 (or alcohol, or any other combustible fluid) over the air intake.  And it fired up.  But it was spitting black smoke.  No bueno.

We limped into East Lemmons and anchored.  Met a fellow cruiser who told us to contact some South African on the net – his name was Mike.  Of course, we had just left Mike and his wife.  And fed them.  So I felt not at all ashamed about giving him a ring on the VHF and asking his advice.  He told me to pull the exhaust hose off the engine and check to see if the exhaust had calcified, blocking my exhaust and causing high exhaust back-pressure.  That would, in turn, cause the diesel to not fully combust in the chamber, which would then come out in the form of black smoke.

I eventually found the problem, which was (as Mike suspected) high exhaust backpressure due to some clogging of the exhaust.  I spent a couple hours breaking out the calcified exhaust with a hammer and screwdriver.  It was a nasty job, but I got it done.  And then, guess what?  It worked!!!! I was so damn happy that I had a couple Cuba Libre.  Which didn’t agree with my already hurting stomach, but I didn’t care.

Diving with Friends

The good news is that, despite some obvious concerns – we’re killing it out here.  We’ve had some ups and downs, a couple of minutes of panic and terror as well as some pretty chill days in a beautiful spot on Planet Earth.  I’m stoked to have a good crew onboard, to have people to dive with, cook and eat with.  We’re having the occasional movie night, complete with Chels’ favorite – cheddar popcorn.

Most importantly though – the crew loves the water.  In fact, we’ve been diving so much that we’ve worn ourselves out.

Hunting in Pairs

Hunting in Pairs

Even cooler than that though, is that we keep meeting people that love to dive.  And those people have been showing us their dive spots.  Sidebar:  for what it’s worth, I NEVER share dive/fishing spots.  Never.  Ever.  Period.  It’s the only way to earn fisherman/diver’s trust enough for them to share their prized spots with me.  And we always respect the spots shared – never overharvesting, and (when possible) sharing the catch with the folks who showed us the spot.

Those practices led Mike to show us his favorite fishing hole the other day, complete with a speedo-escort.  At one point Mike, who’s always working to make us laugh (or mildly offend us) – gave us a really nice view of his bare white ass on the way to the dive spot.  We tried to get a picture of it, but Damo was so excited he fumbled with the camera and we missed it.

DSC00529

There wasn’t much home at Mike’s favorite spot – but that’s fine.  We just appreciated him showing it to us.  There’s rumored to be a massive grouper there, and after Mike bounced a spear off of it’s face – he made us promise to not take it.  The good news is we didn’t even have to face the temptation, as it never showed itself.

The Descent

The Descent

Best Laid Plans

The original plan was to head through San Blas to Cartagena.  Now it looks like we might just spend some time in San Blas – then sail back to Puerto Lindo.  There are a myriad of reasons, but my crew isn’t as stoked on Cartagena or the passage right now.  And we have some pretty awesome friends in Puerto Lindo now.  And I need to iron out some boat issues. That said, I’ve been fighting to get boat work done in Puerto Lindo for so long now that I’m sick of it.  Cartagena would be much more conducive to boat-projects.  Decisions, decisions.

There’s also this nagging feeling that I’ll be pushing it to be ready to cross the Pacific next year.  Almost without fail, every cruiser has told me to slow down – learn my boat and spend more time sailing on this side of the canal.  And I’d be alright with that – but I know that I want to be in the Pacific.  The Pacific is just so much more fishy.  I get pretty tired of diving hard to shoot tiny fish.  It’s just not as fun.

Finally, there have been some personal issues at home that I need to get fixed.  Which means I may, again, be headed back to the States.  I can honestly say I’m not looking forward to it at all.  Leaving the boat is stressful, and it’s so much damn work and money blown.  Some stuff does need to get ironed out though, and it’s important stuff.  So at some point in the relatively near future, I’m back in Texas.  Again.

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