Our latest entry always comes up first...

Click this link if you want to start at the beginning of our trip from
South Carolina (where we bought the boat) to Lake Ontario Click this link:

If you want to see the story of our 2 1/2 year project getting
Blowin' Bubbles ready for our life on board click here:

If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
START OF TRIP - July 2014
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Almost One Year.....

Welcome to our Blog. Our latest entry always comes up first... 
Click this link if you want to start at the beginning:
If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
If you want to see the story of our trip from South Carolina
(where we bought the boat)
 to Lake Ontario Click this link:
It's true... Shelley and I have been travelling for almost one year now.  We have traveled some 3,400 nautical miles (3,900 statute miles or 6,300 kilometers). To date, and assuming we won't leave the marina in the next week or so, we will have spent 60 days underway and 305 days in port.  Said another way:
Days Underway: 60 16%
Days in Port:         305 84%

In terms of where we spent our "nights", it breaks down as follows:
At anchor: 56 15%
At a dock: 215 59%
At a mooring 79 22%
At Sea 14 4%

According to our log, we have spent 595 Hours Underway (or about 25, 24 hour days)
Unfortunately given our route, and the time we spent in the inter-coastal waterway we used our engine for almost 60% of the time underway.  We ran the main engine for 444 hours this year.

In the next few weeks I plan to publish a little more information as it relates to expenses in our first year.

Over the last week we have had rain almost every day. It has limited our ability to get many outside jobs completed but we have more than half our list checked off.  It looks like the things we have ordered from the States will arrive sometime near the end of July.  We are so appreciative of Stan & Joanna in Florida who got our orders re-packed and sent to the container service for transport to Panama.

One of the big inside jobs we completed this week was to re-design the scuba shop in the mid-ship cabin.  We decided the gear that was hanging could be better stored in a couple of large duffel bags.  This freed up the space to accommodate our new fridge/freezer coming in the container.  We also moved the scuba compressor to the lazarette which has made more room for school supplies.

As far as activities goes, Shelley and I went to Panama City 2 weeks ago to pick up some boat parts and see the city.  What an adventure! It began with a water taxi ride to Admilrante where we caught the overnight bus to Panama City.  

The bus was fairly new and as cold as a meat locker.  We were "assigned" seats and the man in front of us was travelling with a little girl.  Before we even left the station he reclined both his seats so they were literally in our laps!  Less than an hour into the trip we stopped for some reason and EVERYONE was ordered off the bus.  An inspection maybe?  Nope.  The driver wanted a rest so the conductor made everyone get off the bus...  By this time a few babies had their diapers changed and since the on board toilets were LOCKED, the smell began to mix with the cabbage from one of the passengers meals, which he purchased at the stop.  Added to this,  the bus had a curtain across the front so we could not see in front of the bus...  After some 3000 nautical miles at sea we found ourselves taking motion sickness pills on a bus!

The bus ordeal ended the following morning after TWO MORE stops throughout the night that were the same as the first one... The only highlight, was one of the stops had no working toilets! 

We took a cab from the Panama City terminal and arrived at our hotel around 6 am. We had left the marina at 430 pm the day before. We had made a reservation at the Central Park Hotel , Spa & Casino and made arrangements to check in early.  We arrived and with no one else checking in, the process took more than 20 minutes. 

When we got to the room, the toilet was dirty, there was no toilet paper, the phone did not work, the safe was not working, the internet was spotty at best, and we discovered that we had to go OUTSIDE and across a driveway and up another elevator to use the dirty swimming pool. 

On the tenth floor (where we stayed) the ice machine was not working and there were two old beds stacked in front of it. Only one of the three elevators worked. The "free" breakfast was terrible and there was nothing to choose from. Finally, the toilet ran intermittently ALL night... Oh did I mention the spa was no longer in business. And lastly, the Casino was a small dirty place without the advertised poker room.

Oh well, we were still going to make the most of this trip so we contacted a driver who came highly recommended.  His name was Roger and he was wonderful. He took us to all the places we needed to go and we were only charged $40 for everything... 

We went to a chandlery and picked up some sealant and other bits and pieces then went to meet the people at the Raymarine dealership who were looking after our broken autohelm.  We met the manager, Luis, and learned that the unit was shipped to the US for evaluation.  We would have to pay $195 for the shipping....  He did indicate  that there was a good chance that they would repair it under warranty so we are still hopeful.  Roger (our driver) agreed to send us the unit if and when it got back to Panama City...

Our last stop was at the Perkins dealership where we purchased a replacement water pump.  We still can't seem to find a replacement pulley.  They told us after we got back to Bocas that a replacement from the factory in England was going to be $300...  We are not sure what to do now.

Anyway the rest of that day and the next day we spent shopping at the biggest mall I have EVER seen. The Albrook Mall boasts over 800 stores!  Shelley was in heaven!  We found two big duffel bags for $9 each! and a plethora of other goodies we probably didn't need...  We broke down at lunch time and ate for the first time since South Carolina at a McDonald's! 

Everyone gets a map!
When it was time to return to Bocas del Toro we decided an extra $60 was worth the money to fly home in 1 hour. I'm not sure if it was real or not, but the Air Panama flight was one of the best experiences I have ever had flying.  From check-in on, everyone (even airport security) were happy, cheerful, competent and relaxed... What a difference from the bus...

Free Internet!

The RED FROG Beach
Bocas Town (where we are staying)

One day we met up with our friends from Rafiki and 4 Coconuts who are staying at another marina (Red Frog).  They are quite far away from town but they have access to a beautiful beach.

For the last week or so I have been feeling unwell.  No appetite, headaches, nausea, and as usual a really sore back.  Finally after listening to me complain too long, Shelley insisted on me seeing a doctor.  There are no English speaking doctors in Bocas, so we contacted a doctor in Admilrante who agreed to see me. He sent us to Changinola for blood and urine tests and ruled out any of the local nuisances like dengue fever, or a parasite.

What he did decide is that my back pain was causing my other symptoms and that over the coarse of 5 more visits he may be able to help...  How much?, I ask.  
$200, says the doc... 
Each visit?
No, he said, for the whole treatment....

For $200 we think it is worth it so when that's all done I'll let you know how things turn out...  It would be pretty remarkable after the 25 years of suffering, a bush doctor in Panama figures it out and fixes it with no surgery!

Last weekend, Shelley join our friend Laura (s/v Nylaya) house sitting the marine owners house on the other side of the island.  On more than 10 acres his home and property was stunning.  Shelley and Laura spent the weekend walking and painting and getting in some girl time.  Her husband Jim and I joined them Sunday night before we all came back to the marina on Monday. 
The CHIQUITA Banana Boat!

Sloths and Monkeys

Laura painting

A GREAT view!

Schooner the dog
The only moment came when I adjusted a pillow in one of the deck chairs and found a small boa constrictor under the pillow.  We summoned  the gardener who made it go away...A great weekend.

Well, I would say that is enough for this blog.  We hope you are enjoying this and we always welcome suggestions or comments...


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Making some Progress.....

For those who live in a place where all things are possible and everything you want or need is just down the road, I am pretty sure that most of what I am about to say won't make too much sense, Here in beautiful Bocas del Torro getting our list of repairs taken care of has taken on a dimension that takes some getting used to...

This week we began the process of ordering parts, arranging repairs, and getting things done....  From our list of 37 things to do, we have ordered about $1400 worth of parts and supplies from the USA and found a person who sends a container from Stuart, Florida about once a month to Bocas del Torro.  He charges by the square inch, but the price is reasonable.

The other alternative to getting things shipped in is to use Mailboxes Etc. who charge $20 per kilo, so things get expensive FAST!

Here is a bit of what we accomplished this week.  We continued the Auto helm saga with Raymarine. They are informing us that there is damage to the circuit board and that is NOT covered under warranty!  After going back and forth a few times, I have argued that we AGREE the board is damaged, but it was the computer in the autohelm that went nuts and sent the hydraulic motor into spasm which burned out the board...  We shipped the unit off to Panama City and we hope that they will eventually work with us and we will get some satisfaction....  A this point however, I am really not happy with their attitude...  We will see....  I have to say, shipping the unit to Panama was interesting.  We simply took it to the Bocas airport and sent it on a plane to Panama city for $5!  They sent someone to pick it up... Simple and cheap!

I took the ICOM SSB radio apart this week and discovered a corroded circuit board under the board that was replaced when we were in Cozumel...  My best guess is that when they repaired it, they found the problem in the power board, and stopped looking any farther... Over time the damage grew and we ended up with a broken radio AGAIN..  This time I spoke directly with the technician in Florida who agreed to sell me the board I need for $150 (plus shipping) which is half the price they normally charge, AND they just sent the board so I didn't have to send the radio to Florida... I installed it yesterday and THE RADIO IS WORKING!  I also moved the radio to a place on the boat where there is NO chance of it getting water damage unless the boat is sinking!  At which point, the radio will be the least of our problems...

The other really big job that we got done this week was the repair of our scuba compressor.  First the problem.  When we re-fit the boat we installed a Chinese 7kw, air cooled diesel generator.  Its only real purpose was to supply the necessary 220 volts to the electric motor that I replaced on the scuba compressor itself.

Over the last year the salt air and likely some salt water has destroyed the wiring in the generator itself.  The diesel engine is fine, except the exhaust system is already completely rotten.  So this week I decided that the only reason we used the electric motor to run the compressor was that we didn't want a gas engine running on the boat. And since we own a 2kw Honda generator for emergency power, we REALLY didn't need the the 7kw genset anyway.  SO I removed the generator from the diesel engine and I connected the engine directly to the compressor....

A little easier said than done.  In order to get the engine rpm matched to the compressor's required rpm, I needed a specific sized pulley for the engine (90.5mm)... I also need the pulley to be tapered because when I took the generator off the engine the shaft was not easily removable...  The internet had nothing that I needed easily or readily available so I decided that a machine shop could easily  make what I needed....

Not so easy... It turns out that Bocas del Torro does not have a machine shop, and the closest town with one is Changanola, which is a water taxi and car taxi ride away...  On Wednesday Shelley and I set off with our "professional" drawings in high hopes of getting the part we needed machined.

The water taxi

The road to Changanola
We set off from The Bocas Marina on the 8 am shuttle and arrived at the water taxi place in time for the 8:30 shuttle from Bocas to Almerante.  After we bought our tickets ($6 each) we were told there wasn't enough people for a shuttle at 8:30 so it would leave at 9...  No problem, We had arranged for a man named Pepito to drive us from Almerante to Changanola at 9, so we spoke to him and he agreed to wait the extra half hour for us to arrive.  We eventually got to Almerante and Pepito was true to his word and was waitng for us...  We drove about 40 minutes over a small mountain and arrived at the machine shop in Changaloa about 10:30.

The young man who ran the place told us he had no material big enough to make what we wanted so we were out of luck... Really? a machine shop with no metal and no access to raw materials...  Did I mention we were not in Kansas anymore??

Pepito remembered a Nigerian man who ran a metal scrap yard across town, so took us there. Not only did he have lots of metal, when we explained what we needed (he spoke great English), he pulled out a box with half a dozen pulleys in it... There was one there EXACTLY the size we needed!  The only problem was that it was set up for a shaft with a key, not a tapered shaft...  No problem.  We paid him $10 for the pulley and took it back across town the the machine shop guy who machined out the taper for us for $15 (I gave him $20).  In the time it took for him to complete his work, We took Pepito for lunch at a place where clearly only the locals go.

The food was excellent and the price was right ($18 for the three of us including soft drinks) but the ambiance was definitely not touristy...  After lunch we dropped Shelley off at a big grocery store and Pepito and I returned to the machine shop an retrieved our new pulley...

After picking up Shelley, Pepito took us by one of the Chequita Banana Plants.  What an amazing place.  Millions of bananas a year come from this place and are shipped all over the world...  It was so cool to see... The blue plastic bags are there to keep the bugs off the banana's and the colored tie at the top tells the workers when to pick them, based on where they are going in the world...  Bananas going to North America and picked at a different time than those travelling to Europe etc...

We then returned to Almerante for our water taxi ride home...  The last mile or so was cut off by some striking workers who decided to block the road.  We said goodbye to Pepito, and walked across the barrier (not our fight) and took a cab to the water taxi stand.  Today we made a new fiend (Pepito) and learned how things get done here in Panama... Never as you hope or expect, but always done... At the end of the day we spent $29 on Water Taxis, $60 for Pepito's services, and $30 for the part itself

Over the last few days I have finally finished getting the compressor back up and running, All I am waiting for now is the new stainless steel exhaust parts from the States to arrive with our container goodies late this month....

Yesterday, Shelley got our fresh veggies from the "Veggie Boat"  Every Saturday morning this enterprising fellow shows up with great produce.... It doesn't last long...

It has been an interesting week... The container from the States should be here around the end of the month and we hope that our repairs and improvements can be finished and we can be out of the marina by the end of July...