We’re moving around again. It’s starting to look like we’ll be leaving San Blas behind relatively soon. I really will miss it – but I’m feeling the need to start moving again. There’s a lot of the Caribbean to explore, and to be honest the spearfishing here isn’t quite what it could be. Colombia is calling. And I haven’t forgotten about Providencia, San Andres, or Bocas Del Torro. Just as exciting is diving on the Pacific side of Panama – where the big tuna play. On the flip side, San Blas is easy sailing, it’s beautiful, and Panama City is relatively close by.
We reprovisioned in Porvenir, which means cookies, beer, rum, and pasta. Then Luke baked, I cooked, and we slept early and soundly.
The next morning we woke up pretty early. I immediately started on the ever-increasing boat-project-list. My shower drain pump isn’t working. And there’s a troubling amount of water in my starboard bilge. And my starboard engine is acting up again. And there’s some oil in the bottom of my starboard engine compartment. And I needed to change the oil in my starboard saildrive (I hate saildrives). And there’s some air getting into my fuel lines in my port side engine. Same story, different day: boat maintenance.
We spent a couple of weeks not doing boat projects – besides the obvious checking of fluids and belts. Clearly that caught up with me. So, after a couple of weeks of relaxation and fun – I have some serious work to do. Hopefully nothing that will keep me too busy for too long.
I replaced the shower drain pump a while ago, and it was working. But after I checked the pre-pump filter, it lost it’s prime and I couldn’t get the damn thing working. I chopped up my hands pretty badly on the hose clamps, which didn’t help. After lunch I gave up on that and started on the more pressing tasks involving bilge pumps, saildrives and engines.
Long story short, I managed to pump the old saildrive oil out and replace it without incident. But it took awhile. And I found a couple more issues. At that point I made a decision – I needed to do a big re-provisioning, some real boat work, and wrap up some stuff in Puerto Lindo (like sell a car and a mooring).
After finishing some of the work in the engine room, we motored from Porvenir back to Chichime to stage for a sail to Puerto Lindo the following morning. It was fairly uneventful, other than noticing a lack of power in my starboard engine. Black smoke, meaning incomplete combustion, when in gear. White smoke, meaning water vapor or oil burning, when throttled up in neutral. Something else to figure out in Puerto Lindo. But first I wanted to get a “real” shower in Chichime.
We arrived in Chichime, I was covered in oil and bleeding from a million small cuts on my paws. I wanted a shower onshore, typically offered for $1. A bargain. We anchored, I went ashore and tried to get a shower. They insisted I pay before my shower, then they couldn’t get the generator working. I got my money back, went back to the mothership and settled for a breakfast-for-dinner meal and a good night’s rest.
The next morning we motored out of Chichime, raised the main, and sailed back to Puerto Lindo. It was a damn good sail. We were sailing through 6 footers, but had enough wind that I never even considered using the engines. In fact we averaged something like 5.5 knots the entire 45 miles, including actually sailing into Puerto Lindo. We weren’t breaking any speed records – but it was a really pleasant day. It helped that we had a few strikes on the rods and that Luke pulled in a tasty Blacken Tuna on the way. The motors were on for about 15 minutes the entire day – which is really nice. And even with a fridge, AIS, the autopilot, etc – we arrived with the batteries 100% charged. So glad I put those new solar panels and batteries in. If only I could convince my other systems to be so reliable.
Back in Puerto Lindo, I found Alex, Alex’s Dad, and Carla back in Puerto Lindo. Alex was trying to recuperate after a few long months working on their other boat in New York. A quick conversation with him helped remind me that I don’t want to sail in the cold. Sounds miserable. And the poor guy has to head back North shortly to finish some really hard boat work.
Then Luke and I took a tour of Puerto Lindo. Luke asked what was onshore – I explained: mangy dogs, trash-lined beaches, and mostly unfriendly people. I’ll admit that wasn’t the best way to sell Puerto Lindo – but I’d been in Puerto Lindo too long already. That said, I saw a few friends and it was good seeing them.
Since I’ve been absent, Guido – the local mechanic had a really bad motorcycle accident in which he severed his foot. They think they’re going to be able to re-attach it, but I wouldn’t put money on him in the 100M sprints. He was in pretty bad shape for a couple of days, and I can’t imagine the stress on his family.
In other related Panama-moto-accident-news: the guy managing the construction of the new Puerto Lindo Marina had a really bad vehicular accident too. He was in a coma last time we heard, but the word is that he’s awake and making progress – though partially paralyzed. This is a dangerous place to be in a vehicle, me thinks – I’ll be happy to get rid of mine. The latest car accident has definitely set back the marina construction.
And now start the boat projects. I’m genuinely hoping to be done with the major stuff in two or three weeks. Of course, this depends on what I break while trying to fix stuff, what parts I need and can find, and how long it takes to get said parts. I do believe I’m getting a pretty decent education in marine diesel mechanics.
The goal is to have S/V NOMAD ready for a trip to Colombia. In Cartagena I can do more work, with greater ease – as the city is a boat-city and it’s right there. Whereas in Puerto Lindo, it’s an ordeal to get to Panama City and find parts. And based on a limited data-set, it just seems like the Colombian people are a more friendly, more helpful, and more professional type. I hope this holds true.
The real challenge is that I need to be sure I have all the parts I need before I leave Panama. Importing parts here is much easier than Colombia (though much harder than other parts of the world). The thing that Colombia has going for it is relatively skilled marine labor, for relatively little money. The thing that it does not have going for it is the ability to easily and cheaply import parts. So in an ideal world, one would have all the parts necessary when heading to Colombia and then use said cheap/skilled labor to install/replace those parts.
It’s also looking like there is a haul-out in my immediate future. I need to replace some sail drive seals, re-seal the escape hatches, etc. Might as well replace any bad seacocks and through-hulls. And if the boat is hauled, I may as well do a fresh coat of bottom-paint. There’s a few days of engine work I suspect as well. It’ll be tough to squeeze all this into what promises to be a few fun nights in Cartagena, me thinks. Then in April I’m headed to a wedding, and likely another one in July. Busy times.
So here starts a couple of weeks of breaking stuff whilst trying to fix it, selling stuff, and generally getting ready for another little sailing adventure. NOMAD in Colombia ought to be something worth reading.