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Generator Round 2

July 25, 2014

When we got up this morning we grabbed the tools, the recharged starter battery, and the gas syphon.  The plan was to remove all the diesel from the generator and replace it with known good diesel from Wanuskewin’s deck tanks.  Bad fuel was pretty much the only thing left to try after yesterday’s troubleshooting.

When Dave took apart the gas tank to clean it, he found that there was a fuel filter inside the tank assembly.  It had a little bit of grunge on it, but it wasn’t bad.  And the gas that came out of the tank had a few bits of debris, but with the filter that wouldn’t have been a problem.

We then filtered the gas we put into the generator just to be absolutely certain it was clean.

The guys then bled the air out of the fuel system again.

Alas, these were the sad faces when it still didn’t work.

The guys took it apart again, took out the spring we put in yesterday, just to be certain the spring was in fact required.  They found that fuel didn’t flow without it.  They took the injector out again and noticed that someone had probably tried to take the injector itself apart because it had some score marks that looked like someone had gone at it with a wrench.

In the end, it’s our belief that there is something more fundamentally wrong causing the compression or injector timing to be wrong.  In fact, in all likelihood, what happened was that the fundamental issue occurred, and then Domingo tried to figure out how to fix it.  He probably took the pump apart, the spring got lost, he then presumably reassembled it wrong (as the final pump configuration that worked wasn’t the way it was when the guys first took it apart).  Then when Domingo checked the fuel flow at the injectors, he concluded something was wrong with the pump.  So while the guys were able to fix the pump (despite Dave’s early protest that it wouldn’t be field serviceable) they couldn’t fix the compression issue that was likely the root cause.  So it had to go back into the shed still inoperative.

Over the course of the two days we laughed several times at the family dog who seemed content to run around the yard with a rope tied around his neck, dragging on the ground behind him.  None of the family seemed at all concerned about it, but it seemed very odd to us.

Domingo had gone across the bay in his panga to pick up his grand kids from school when we packed up our tools.  So he came out in his panga and brought us some fresh corn soup as a thank you for our efforts.  When we tasted it later it was sort of like watered down creamed corn.  Somewhere on his finca he grows the corn himself.  Dave explained to him that the fuel pump was fine now, but that he needed to have a mechanic come check the compression on the engine.  Unfortunately we will probably never know whether they get the unit fixed as it wasn’t apparent that Domingo had any email capabilities to tell us how this story ends.

As we were getting the boats ready to get underway a squall came through.  So we decided to sit it out at anchor as we weren’t crazy about maneuvering out of the bay in poor visibility.  And then it just kept coming.  Hours of rain, rain, rain.  We filled our whole 100 gallon water tank off the deck and it just kept coming.  So we plan to depart early in the morning.

Generator Round 1

July 24, 2014

We were still in bed when our first visitor of the day came knocking.  It was Kennedy’s Dad, Domingo.  (Note the nice shirt he is wearing – later it became clear he probably put on his Sunday best to come see us.)  He spoke not a word of English.  Turns out he is the guy with the “high speed dingy” that takes the older kids back and forth each week to the mainland to go to school.  His 20 HP engine is identical to ours.  When Dave told him that we had paid $2000 for ours he was shocked as he paid $4000 for his two months ago.  But Dave told him we had bought ours used.  (Our Spanish is improving!)  He explained (we *think*) that they were hoping for our help in fixing a broken diesel generator at their house, “moto de casa est muy malo”.  Based on Domingo’s description, Dave suspects that either the fuel pump isn’t working or the injectors are clogged.  Melissa suspects that Ishmel had told some of the towns people about watching Dave work on the outboard yesterday, and how impressed he was by our “very clean” engine room aboard Apsaras.  However, for all we know they are asking for help to fix a kitchen garbage disposal.  We told him that we were planning to see Kennedy later in the day and would take a look at the motor then.  Oh, and let’s not forget that the boys promised to look at Kennedy’s daughter’s bad computer too.  We’ve heard that if you stick around these native places too long and show any aptitude there will be a never ending stream of stuff they need help fixing.

Domingo then headed over to Wanuskewin, who purchased one of the wooden bowls Domingo had tried to sell us.  Mike told Domingo that Dave was “excellante mechanico” and that we would be over to their place later in the day to take a look at their motor.

Philip had told us he would take us for a hike to a waterfall this morning.  The waterfall is on the next island over.  The town’s people have run a pipe from the waterfall, under the bay, to the top of the hill next to the school.  This is where they get their fresh water.  But by 11am he hadn’t shown up.  Probably fell asleep at 3am after watching a few of the movies Mike gave him yesterday.  So we set off to anchor in a bay closer to Domingo and Kennedy’s house.  When we got to his bay Domingo came ripping out to tell us to anchor here.  Meanwhile he had to go over to the school and pickup his grandkids.  Melissa would swear that was a chicken he was dragging in the water alongside.  Maybe the salt water helps get the feathers off?

When we got to his house, he had to bring out the boat cards from all his “mucho amigos”.  He apparently prides himself in collecting these cards.  We went through the hundred plus cards and only recognized a couple of boats.

Then it was time to take a look at his motor.  Sure enough in the shed out back he had a practically new generator/welding unit.  He told us it was from Chile and he had only had it for a month before it quit working.

Dave helped him drag it out of the shed to take a look.

It was as Domingo had previously explained.  No diesel was making it to the injectors.  Dave was convinced it was the fuel pump not working.  And these things are not designed for field servicing.  None the less, Dave pulled the unit apart.  The boys would spend the next four hours fiddling with this small part.

Inside the fuel pump was a needle valve.  Dave was convinced it wasn’t working right, and that there was a spring missing.  What happened to the spring we’ve no idea.

However, we also found some small metal flecks inside the pump.  So we speculated that maybe the spring had disintegrated and then then pump just beat it to death.

Dave tested the pump by blowing through it.  Yummy diesel!

It was clear the pump wasn’t activating because the needle valve was closing and not reopening properly – supporting the theory of the missing spring.  So after some more staring at it, Mike went back to his boat and got and got a small spring out of a ball point pen.

They then installed the spring.

And then put the pump back in the motor.  They took the pump out and fiddled with it.  They put the pump in.  They took the pump out.  They speculated that maybe someone had taken the pump apart previously and put it back together wrong.  They had been super careful to keep track of how it was put together when they took it apart the first time.  But maybe someone else messed with it first.  So they started rearranging the order of the washers and orientation of the valve.  They put the pump in.  They took the pump out. 

Meanwhile Domingo looked on.  He was super animated and would spontaneously start chattering on about various things like the fact that Panama’s parks are too expensive and are driving away tourists.  Or how his chickens and turkeys are so much better than those you get in the city because that poultry is raised in tight hen houses and they feed them chemicals as opposed to his free range flocks.

In order to try and save the starter battery, they would often pull the manual start rope as they were testing the unit.  Or when they wanted to get the pump piston to a particular location as they installed the pump.

Then big smiles when the injectors finally started spraying diesel!

They reinstalled the injectors, but alas, the generator still wouldn’t start.  They took it apart and put it back together another half dozen times testing diesel flow at various points.  But no luck.  And by then it was evening time, and the starter battery was running down.  We packed up Mike’s tools and told Domingo we would take the battery back to the boat to recharge it, and would return in the morning to continue working on it.  We never did try filtering the diesel itself.  Domingo had insisted it was good.  But there were those mystery metal flecks, and we know that the pump clogged at least once more during the debugging process.  So we will bring back filters tomorrow and give that a shot.  And who knows, maybe overnight something will occur to the boys that didn’t earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, Melissa amused herself by taking a number of photos of Domingo’s turkeys and chickens.  This turkey seemed fascinated by the camera, and kept puffing up his feathers and poking his beak at the lens.

And this rooster was all about protecting his hens who were all hiding under the bushes in the shade.

As we headed out, Domingo brought us a huge bowl of small limes from his tree.  Fresh margaritas tonight!

When we got back to the boat, another of Domingo’s grown son’s came by in a panga with one of his children.  He asked us for fishhooks (of which we have none), and silicone.  We have silicone, but were hesitant to give that up because we might need it ourselves.  The guidebooks tell you that the natives will ask for fishhooks, fishing line, batteries, and all sorts of stuff that it’s nearly impossible to get way out here without a day long trip into town.  They floated around the boat looking at it with some awe and saying things like “very big boat”.

A while later Kennedy came by with another of his kids in tow.  He brought some fruit that looks like and is sized like oranges, that he called lemons, that turned out to taste closest to limes.

He also brought another mystery fruit he explained you slice open and drain the juice out.  Then you mix the juice with water and sugar for a tasty drink. We have yet to try them out.

And finally he brought some of what he called cilantro.  When Melissa looked at it she told him it wasn’t cilantro.  He insisted it was.  So we tasted it, and sure enough it tastes a lot like cilantro.  We don’t know if it is a different variety or what, but it’s certainly edible. 

We paid him $5 for the produce (no doubt overpaying but we didn’t have any smaller bills.)  And he asked for batteries so Dave found him some AA’s.  He also asked us to radio other cruisers when we get to Panama City and ask someone headed this way to bring him some sandals for his wife and a small backpack, and he would gladly pay for them if someone could bring them.  He then asked if we had any children.  We told him that Dave has one that is 25 years old, but Melissa has none.  He was utterly shocked by this and repeated it back several times as if he just couldn’t believe it to be true.  We learned from Mike and Holly that they got the same reaction from him when they told him they had no children either.

Isla Talon

July 23, 2014

We awoke to a gorgeous morning in Bahia Honda.  Though we’ve learned this sun means it will be blazing hot.  By 9am it was 87 degrees.

This morning another man named Ishmael in a dugout canoe came by to chat.  He had a small boy and was (again) looking for English children’s books for him.  Wanuskewin had some Spanish/English coloring books and gave them some.  But we didn’t have anything.  He offered to come back later with pineapples and bananas for us.

Philip arrived about 10:30am to start our tour of Isla Talon where about 500 people live. Philip is 19, and has 15 siblings ranging from 6 months to 25 years.  He is a motivated young man who apparently was determined to learn English by reading the dictionary.  His English is good enough that he is now teaching some of the younger kids at the school.

Unfortunately the 2.5HP engine is still acting up, so Wanuskewin had to tow us around the point to the dock Philip told us was owned by his aunt and where we could park our dingy’s.

First we climbed the hill to visit the local school that is at the very top of the island.


But how the students ever get anything done with views like this, we just don’t know.

This is the school’s director who told us a bit about the school.  They teach 136 children in grades 1 through 9 after which the children have to travel for further education.  Reaching the mainland school takes 4 hours by “high speed panga” and bus.  The children stay for a week at the school, and then return home for a week.

This is the town’s communication’s sattelite system.  It was apparently knocked out in a storm a few days ago so no one has any internet access.  The repair men are planning to come look at it sometime next week.

Then Philip wanted to take us on a tour up river.  But with our motor out, that wasn’t going to work.  We headed back to Apsaras to switch out for the 20 HP big engine.  This got Philip a tour of the boat. 

We then headed across the bay to the mangroves.  We would never have found this place without a local giving the tour.

We were hoping to see some crockodiles, but no such luck.

Eventually we came upon a small town called Salmonete.  When we got off the dingy’s the first thing we found was a pay phone, presumably connected to the sattelite dish and solar pannels you see in the background.  There are no roads in or out of the town.  The only way to get there is via the river.

We toured their school as well.

Note that there are several kids casually carrying machetes.

While this would never happen back in the US, the reality is that here in the jungle, a machete is a part of their way of life.  We found one of the classes out back of the school learning how to farm.

Evidence of the agricultural society is everywhere

We stopped at a small tiendas for some sodas and to play with their puppy.

And this 3 year old boy was happy to have Melissa take pictures of their pet parrot.


Where they came by this bucket that had made its way all the way from Quebec remained a mystery.

This little guy was a bit more hesitant to have his picture taken.


Then it was time to head back up the river.

Back in town we were thirsty for some beer tasting!

Served up by Marlena – the local bartender.

They had a ton of the local liquor – which we think was some type of rum.  Though none of us was brave enough to try it.

The locals must have heard we were at the bar because they started showing up to chat with us.

These guys wanted to know how much we had paid for our dingy.  The inflatables are a bit of a puzzle to Central American’s who drive around in the big wooden pangas.  We get a bit nervous answering these types of questions as we always worry about the equipment being stolen.  But these guys were savvy enough to know that the $3500 we paid for the dingy and 20 HP motor was a great deal.  They explained that it would cost a lot more here in Panama.

Then these guys in a panga pulled up to the bar an asked if we wanted lobsters for dinner.  We told them we would take four of them.  Philip told us they would come to the boats if they were successful at catching our dinner.

And who knew pigs would go for a swim to find and eat a coconut?

Then it was time (again – like this is the 10th round) to work on the 2.5 HP engine.  Dave says if its three o’clock in the afternoon – must be time to rebuild the carb.  If this cleanout of the carburetor doesn’t work, then we will just have to get a replacement carb.  Yet again, Dave finds that the needle valve is stuck.  He lubricated it but good this time…

Meanwhile, the rain started, but that didn’t stop Ishmael from returning with his son and the fruit he promised us this morning.  We bought two enormous bunches of bananas, a big papaya, some limes, ginger, and a coconut for $6 USD.  Then they came aboard for a tour of the boat.  Ishmael was fascinated by the engine as he is apparently a mechanic.  And he watched Dave work on the outboard for a bit as he’s probably never seen a four stroke engine here.  He asked if Melissa had a t-shirt for his wife, and she gave him an old one she doesn’t wear.  Then they offered to take our trash off the boat, for which Dave gave them another dollar, and Ishmael then headed out to sell Wanuskewin some fruit as well.

By this time Philip showed up with his laptop computer and asked Mike if he had any movies he could copy.  And indeed Mike and Holly were able to give him 60 movies in English.  We also gave him a science fiction book for young adults that we happened to have aboard.

The fishermen showed up back in town around 5pm.  Sure enough they had managed to snag us four lobsters.

We paid $15 USD for the batch of 4.  Here we are in the middle of nowhere and we still have yet to need any local currency.  In fact, none of us even know what the local currency is because dollars are accepted so readily, and many ATMs will dispense dollars.

We handed them off to Mike to be cleaned.

He broke off a tentacle and used it to clean out their digestive system before separating the bodies from the meaty tails.

Then it was time to figure out how to deal with the coconuts we bought from Ishmael earlier in the day.  He told us they were young coconuts – only good for coconut water.  He explained we should use a bread knife to get them open.  So Mike gave it a try.  Mike 0, Coconut 1.  Not unlike the conch from a couple of days ago.

Dave says that there is a way to solve this problem.  You want the 3/8” or the 1/2“ bit?

This resulted in coconut guts flying everywhere.

The three coconuts netted us 2 quarts of coconut water.  Mixed with rum and ice.   Mmmmmmm.  Not a bad sunset drink.

As we were getting reading to cook the lobsters, another dugout canoe pulled up.  A gentleman and his daughter.  His name was Kennedy.  They talk about him in our guidebooks.  Apparently anyone who stays here longer than a few hours gets to meet him.  He pulled up alongside and because we had the generator running, the generator out hull was spewing water and promptly SOAKED his teenage daughter.  He explained in Spanish that she had a school assignment, and needed some pictures off their camera printed, but their computer was broken.  His daughter unwraps a soaking wet purse and pulls out the camera – which fortunately had managed to stay dry.  We told them to come aboard!

We pulled the SD card out of the camera and put it into Dave’s laptop.  Turns out the SD card was smaller than the SD card slot and the computer promptly swallowed the card.  Oooops.  Took us a while to get the card out.  Meanwhile Mike went back to Wanuskewin and got a universal SD card reader.

When we finally got the card out, Melissa was able to crop and print the photos of his daughter on our printer.  The daughter was happy but mostly embarrassed by having her father drag her along to have the gringos help them out.

Kennedy told us that tomorrow we must come to his farm and he would have lemons and cilantro for us.  He offered up bananas too, but we already have a ton of those from Ishmael.  With all the hullabaloo finally dying down for the night, it was time to focus on those lobsters.  We steamed them for 2 minutes to get them partially cooked.  Then Mike butterflied them, coated them in butter, salt, and pepper to get them ready for the grill.

After Dave grilled them, they were wonderful.  At this point we decide another episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey was needed.  Meanwhile we had left a few lights on in the cabin.  BIG MISTAKE.  Because what we found later was that every bug in the bay decided to infest the boat.  It took us another couple of hours with a can of raid combined with the wet/dry vacuum to get rid of them.  There were so many of them they had even managed to infest the INSIDE of our wedding picture frame, and Melissa had to disassemble it from the glass front to get the bugs out.  Bleck.

Floating garbage

July 22, 2014

Wanuskewin called early this morning and said they were pulling up anchor and headed to a nearby rock to try and go snorkeling.  They had to anchor in 70 feet of water.  Shortly thereafter we followed them out.  Alas when we got there, the swell over the reef was rolling us around and since we hadn’t even finished our morning coffee Melissa was worried stuff like the coffee maker was going to go flying, so we headed to Bahia Honda.  Later Mike told us the snorkeling wasn’t that great because the motion of the water over the rocks was killing visibility at the surface.  But it would have been a great place to dive as down a ways it was great.

The islands continue to impress us.  We are surprised that someone hasn’t put a sailboat charter location here.

Along the way, we saw all sorts of stuff in the water.  For whatever reason, trash seems to collect in this area.  Wanuskewin got the prize though for spotting a refrigerator and a 55 gallon drum:

We came across a turtle that we thought had gotten stuck in some debris and diverted to try and rescue him.  Turns out he wasn’t stuck though, probably just munching on a branch of the tree.

The humpback whales are also in the area as they come down here to give birth.  We saw a number of them along the way.  Tons of dolphins too.

We also saw what we thought were snakes in the water.  Though Mike told us later these are harmless eels that its fine to swim with.  Yeah.  Right.

Underway these days it’s common to see rain in the distance but most of the time it evaporates before we get to it.


But when we reached Bahia Honda, a squall came up and it poured rain on Melissa while she was lowering the anchor.  Her clothes still hadn’t dried by the next day.  Dave was happy to collect 20 gallons of fresh water in the tanks because we were getting low.  Getting low in his mind being down to 100 gallons remaining – half our capacity.  The thunder boomed as loud as we’ve ever heard as it echoed off the hills that surround the bay.

After we got settled, the children on one of the islands all decided to come over and visit.  We passed out what goodies we had – a freebie, a beach ball, and some kids sunglasses.  They were grateful, but what they wanted was children’s books.  One of them, Phillip, spoke excellent English and volunteered to take us on a tour of the island tomorrow so he could practice his English.

How can a conch outsmart us?

July 21, 2014

Today we hung out at Isla Cavada all day.  Melissa did next to nothing, but Dave decided to tackle trying to fix the 2.5HP engine.  Again.  Mike had lent him a fuel filtration gadget so that Dave could clean the gas in the dingy tank as this was Dave’s best guess as to the source of the contamination that keeps messing up the carburetor.  Sure enough, he found water, and sludge in the gas.  And he found that the small fuel filter inside the engine had disintegrated entirely, puking its guts into the carburetor.  This time the carburetor was so messed up Dave wasn’t sure he could get the float valve unstuck.  Eventually though he was able to get it all cleaned out, and with the newly filtered fuel, it seems to be back to its old self.

Mike went diving and found a ton of HUGE conch on the bottom.  He brought up a half a dozen of them with hopes of being able to eat them.  First you gotta get them out of their shells though.  Mike had a book that gave directions.  You have to pound a hole in the shell using a rock hammer, and then using a knife, cut the meat away from the shell.  Then in theory the whole animal falls out of the shell.  Mike called Dave and told him he was going to toss the conch back as he didn’t have a rock hammer.  But, as it happened, Dave had a rock hammer aboard Apsaras.  Why?  Not even Dave knows the answer.  The only reason Dave even had a rock hammer was that Curtis used to whack rocks in the yard with it when he was little.  Somehow it had made its way into the tool box we brought aboard.  So mike headed over with the conch and the instruction book.


Alas the final score was conch 2, boaters 0.  Despite numerous attempts we couldn’t get the suckers out of their shells.  And not wanting to destroy a ton of them needlessly, Mike tossed the remaining conch back into the water.

Fish Morse code

July 20, 2014

We awoke this morning to an odd noise – it sounded like someone was tapping on the hull.  We believe it was probably a fish feeding on the barnacles on the bottom of the boat.  Guess it’s time to get the bottom scrapped again!

We went to breakfast at another restaurant overlooking the bay.  Then it was time to go get some ice.  Dave dropped Melissa off at a small fishing lodge that looked like it might have a town nearby.  Sure enough Melissa found the small tienda, but they didn’t have any ice.  They pointed off down the road, and told her it would be a two minute walk.  So off she went with everyone staring at her as she walked by the houses.  She came upon a dilapidated restaurant with a sign “se vende hielo”.  There was no one around, and the place was in complete disrepair – with overturned tables and chairs.  Melissa ventured in, and a woman came out.  Melissa pointed at the sign and said “yellow?” (more or less how hielo is pronounced).  The woman looks at her suspiciously, and without taking her eyes off Melissa, yells into the back for (presumably) her husband.  A large man comes tromping out, and Melissa repeats the pointing at the sign routine.  He walks over to a huge chest freezer and opens it.  Sure enough, its filled with nothing but bags of ice.  For less than a dollar, Melissa had her ice!

Then we were underway to the short hop to Isla Cavada – part of the Islas Secas.  Wanuskewin decided to try out her spinnaker.

Its amazingly beautiful here.  We are enjoying the Panama Islands more than any other Central American cruising grounds.

When we got to the anchorage, Melissa started trying to clean the bottom of the boat.  She felt something big swim by her, and looks around.  Sure enough, Mike had swam over from Wanuskewin and was all grins having tried to spook her.  After an hour of scraping, Melissa had accomplished cleaning about 10% of the boat.  Yeah, ok, leave this job to the pro’s with scuba tanks!

We headed to Wanuskewin for fish dinner.  Yum!

An internet day

July 19, 2014

We got up this morning and went ashore for lunch to a nearby hotel.  It was 150 steps up to the restaurant, but the view was worth it once you go there.  And they had internet!

We then took a taxi into the nearby town so Mike could look for distilled water for his batteries.  Wanuskewin’s been having a heck of a time with their electrical system lately.  They completely melted down a fuse a couple of days ago.  The boys suspect that the fuse had corroded connections to begin with and that might have been the source of some of the mysterious charge/discharge behaviors.

Then we went to the tiki bar on the water for drinks and dinner.  On Saturday nights they have a BBQ with cheap burgers and cheap drinks and all the local cruisers show up.  So it was interesting to hear some of their pointers on where to go here in the islands.

Squall on the way to Boca Chica

July 18, 2014

We awoke to a beautiful morning.  Isla Gomez was deserted and Wanuskewin took their dingy off to explore so we had the place to ourselves.  We took the kayaks over to the island to poke around.  Because it was so calm, we decided to wash the kayaks which had been full of sand from previous adventures.  We would fill them with water, shake them around and then with each of us taking one end, lift them out of the water to clean them out.  They’ve not been so clean since we left Seattle.

Then it was time to pull up anchor.  Melissa managed to do this without incident this time.  Dave is jealous of Wanuskewin’s anchor cleaning system.  Though at this rate Melissa would be sure to break that too if we had one!

We headed off to Boca Chica.  The islands around here are beautiful.

But only minutes after that picture was taken, the sky started to darken.

And a few minutes later it looked like this.

We were in 3 feet of water (below the keel) in a shallow area.  As Wanuskewin draws 1.5 feet more than we do, they were very hesitant to continue through this area in the squall.  They preferred to wait till the tide came up a bit.  Dave was also hesitant because the storm was blowing so hard.  Even though we had our sails down it was still nasty.  So we both dropped anchor to wait out the storm.  Melissa got soaked to the skin putting down the anchor.  Ironic because we were only one mile from our destination.  The an hour later the squall was gone and a pleasure boat came flying past us everyone waving and hollering.  They seemed quite amused to get their picture taken.


That night Melissa made beef stew in the pressure cooker, and we watched the movie Sahara.


Panamanian Navy doth approach

July 17, 2014

Overnight it was quiet.  But in the early dawn hours we were approached by the Panamanian Navy.  Though in a boat just larger than a panga.

They wanted us to go to Puerto Muelles to do our check in paperwork, but we told them we were going to Panama City to do our paperwork.  They seemed ok with this, so long as we switched to flying the Panama flag rather than Costa Rica.  The irony of this is that Mike and Dave had just been discussing that they should switch flags, but since Melissa wasn’t awake yet, Dave isn’t allowed out on deck alone.  But of course when Dave cut the engine when the Navy pulled up along side, she immediately woke up to see what was going on.  She dug through the nav station to find the right flag so Dave could make the switch.

Melissa cooked up chorizo and eggs for breakfast.  The chorizo had been made fresh only a couple of days prior by the meat market we bought provisions from.  By 11am we had reached Isla Gamez and set the anchor.  Dave went down for a couple of hour nap.  We hung out on the boat, and had burgers for dinner.  Melissa having figured that since he drove all night he should be well fed.  Then we were both asleep by 8:30pm!

Melissa breaks the boat

July 16, 2014

This morning we got going early as there was a ton of stuff to get done if we are going to depart for Panama tonight.  We went to the big duty free mall to buy a bunch of cheap liquor.  Then the gals finished the provisioning while the guys did the checkout paperwork.  They had to go to immigration to get our passports stamped (odd but not everyone has to be physically present for this), the bank to pay the exit fees, customs, and then the port captain for the final clearance paperwork to Panama.  We had been hearing bad things on the forums about a corrupt official at the port captain’s office who was requiring a little extra cash to do the paperwork.  And we’d been told by some locals that particular official was just awful.  And we think the gal the guys dealt with was the same one.  But apparently this is another advantage to (1) not dressing in cutoff shorts and stained t-shirts (some of the locals may have been off the grid a bit too long drinking the local beers), (2) traveling in pairs (i.e. with witnesses), and (3) looking like clean cut all American white bread.

We needed to pull up anchor and head for the fuel dock.  So Melissa headed up to the bow to pull in the anchor.  A couple of weeks ago we blew out our normal anchor snubber system and Dave had rigged up a temporary system that involved screwing a bow shackle to the chain with two ropes attached to the cleats.  This means Melissa has to pull up the chain part way till she can reach and unscrew the shackle.  The problem is that the two ropes tend to get wrapped up and stuck in the chain as its pulled up over the bow.  So while she was getting the ropes free she failed to notice that the bow shackle which was still attached went all the way into the windlass (winch that brings up the anchor).  Between the bow shackle and the knots tying the ropes to it, the windlass got miserably jammed.  She immediately realized her mistake and tried to reverse direction on the winch, but to no avail.  The winch was hopelessly jammed tight.  She yelled back to Dave, “Oh no!  I’ve totally screwed up!  Come help me!”  Dave comes forward takes one look and says, “Uh oh”.  We both worked to try to unjam it.  Dave managed to untie the ropes but they were so wedged into the winch that even with the knots undone they wouldn’t come out.  Eventually we heard a loud SNAP!  And the plastic part of the windlass that helps keep the chain in the track had broken clean off.  The only good news is that this left enough space for us to pull the chain back out and remove the shackle.  Now the question is whether we can make the windlass work without the chain protector thingy (technically known as an anchor rode management module).  So Melissa puts on her keens shoes (to protect her toes) and stands on the winch as it pulls the anchor up to keep the chain in place.  And that worked!

(Note: Apparently Melissa shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the windlass because while taking this picture a few days later she managed to lose the bungee cord that holds open the compartment when it slipped through her fingers and went whizzing off into the water.)

As soon as we got to the fuel dock, Melissa powered up her laptop and started looking for the replacement part.  Dave had already told her that our model winch was no longer in production.  So the fear was that we would have to replace the whole winch.  But fortunately one of the Hunter owner forums gave a link to the one place that still has spare parts in the UK, and Melissa was able to get one on order – a mere $125 including shipping.  So we will only have a few weeks of anchoring without the replacement part.  Whew!

Then it was time to say good bye to the sleepy town of Golfito.

As we departed Golfito, Melissa snapped a picture of the US Coast Guard ship that has been at the main dock most of the past week.  It seems odd to see the US Coast Guard here, but presumably they are protecting US ships headed through the Panama Canal.  It sort of made us laugh though because there was a Costa Rica Coast Guard ship parked behind it.  Melissa had taken a picture of it up north while we were at anchor.  This picture shows both boats in scale relative to each other.  Funny to think the US Coast Guard ship is so much more substantial than the local ships.  This isn’t unusual though.  When we traveled through El Salvador and Nicaragua the local Navy (their Coast Guard) would have been jealous of the Costa Rican ships.

As we headed out into the night, Melissa got a picture of Wanuskewin sailing into the sunset.


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