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START OF TRIP - July 2014
2015, 2016, 2017

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...


  1. Thanks for this tutorial! We have the same saw and my husband and I love it too! I am glad you stressed the importance of the clamp..I have seen ours but have never used it…but I will now! Charles J. Laws

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