Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Velcro of Bocas

Still in Bocas, Panama #2


Boat repairs in Paradise or – Bocas really is lined with Velcro.

When we arrived back to the boat in January we thought we could be headed out to San Andreas by February 10th, weather permitting. No particular urgency to get away, it just seemed like it was time to go.
Bearing and seals not looking good

This looks better
During the process of getting all systems working again the raw water pump was seized and the belt drive broke on start-up. Fortunately we had a spare rebuilt water pump and belts on board so a fix was available. Unfortunately this is a systemic problem with the pump design, our third time in four years, so we did not want to head up to Cuba where American pump parts would be unavailable.
It seemed smarter to get a new pump and a couple of sets of spare bearings, seals, bushings and impellors sent to Bocas. All of which arrived safely.

While we were recommissioning the nav system the autopilot decided it would not engage. Although it is a Raymarine autopilot all of the hydraulic parts are manufactured by Hydraulic Products Inc, also from the UK. Fortunately the solenoid controlled by-pass valve had a part number stamped on it which led me to Hy-Pro Inc and a source for a replacement. Unfortunately, the UK was the only place that the suppliers had the correct part number with a confirming picture of the unit. The US suppliers had a Raymarine part number that was a distinctly different part in the supplied pictures so I went with the Hy-Pro part out of the UK with slightly longer shipping time. Fortunately it was the right part and the autopilot is working again.

When we put the dinghy back in the water and put the outboard on, it ran poorly and would not idle down. I am the first to admit that I have zero experience with outboard repair so even pulling the carburetor was venturing into unknown territory. It is a 6hp 4 cycle Suzuki and no helpful u-tube videos exist for it. Lots of info on 2 cycle carbs and Yamahas etc but nothing for a 4 cycle Suzuki. I pulled it apart and the illusive idle port may have been one of the several places I blew through to clean it out because when I reassembled it, admittedly after a few tries to get everything in the right place, the engine started. Bob from Nirvana came by and showed me what I needed to clean but unfortunately, the port would not unscrew so we could not remove it. The good news is that Bob, being a musician, had a mandolin string that worked as a cleaner. Although still not perfect it improved the idle somewhat.  
While checking that the bees had left from the top of the mast I got this photo of Bocas.

The view from the mast to the south anchorage
Also, while all of this was happening we had an additional distraction. An adjacent boat in the marina was visited by a swarm of bees. They managed to discourage residency but the bees thought our mast might just be ideal and collected on the top of the mast. As much as fresh honey while cruising sounds attractive, I was not quite certain where on the mast I should place the spigot for our fresh, free honey. After much movement of halyards and sending bee swatter like sticks aloft taped to the halyards over the course of a few days, the bees got the message and left.
Block of treated wood fills missing battery space.

Oh, and did I mention that I have been watching our house battery bank not hold its power over the last couple of weeks…. Well, while trying to determine a “why” for this issue I placed my hand on one of the batteries and it was hot! Hotter than a firecracker as the saying goes. They are sealed AGM batteries and fortunately the vent seal had not blown. The faulty battery was at the back of the bank so I had to remove the one in front to get at it and then rewire the bank as a three battery bank with the net result that we dropped from a theoretical 860 Amp Hours to 645 Ahrs. These batteries weigh 132lbs so you get a serious workout just looking at them even before you start moving them around in a confined engine room. And on the topic of batteries…. the starting battery appears to be losing its charge and may need replacing. At least the starting battery is a single battery and can be replaced, the house batteries have to be replaced as a complete bank, not just added one at a time so we will see if 645 Ahr is adequate before we replace all four.

The Velcro of Bocas.
The Cantina Restaurant and bar at Bocas Marina
Marina office and shuttle dock
Actually Bocas del Toro is a great place with some really interesting people, some excellent restaurants and a good music scene. The marina is convenient to town but accessible by boat only so it is nicely private.
Ignacio running the free shuttle from the marina to Bocas town

So now we wait for a weather window to head north……


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