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12th -22nd May 2008 Boat jobs - & one poor tiny gecko

Last Monday (19th), I got back around 5.30pm from Balboa/Panama City on 'express' coach after linehandling for another boat through the Canal - very interesting and sociable - & a very useful experience! Each boat is required to have four 125ft lines with a 'linehandler' for each line as well as the skipper/helmsman and a Panama Canal 'Transit Advisor' who comes on board in the 'Flats' (anchorage area near beginning of Canal) to oversee the Transit. I and a couple of other 'yachties' were taken over to the boat in their dinghy at 5-6pm Sunday and the Advisor finally arrived in a Pilot boat around 8pm (not bad - only over one hour late!!) and we moved over toward the first lock about an hour later... they couldn't track down the 3rd boat so we eventually were only two - very frustrating for myself, as someone still waiting to get through as soon as possible, since another boat could have gone early, in their place, but wasn't given the chance. Excellent (different) Advisors on the main (bigger) boat both days.

Since then I've been trying to get on with boat jobs - soldering of new serial connectors I bought on Saturday to try to improve a couple of inputs to laptop & a variety of other wiring/instrumentation issues .... I lent my sewing machine to another boat for sail repairs - that then led to the entire forepeak area being looked through ... a good thing since I found a few unexpected items & some leaking containers and was able to organize that area better afterwards - something I'd been wanting to do anyway - but that took a day of my time!!  While in the forepeak the other day I came across one very dehydrated, poor, tiny, dead gecko - which had unfortunately come on board in Trinidad & hitched a lift to here!

The morning after arriving here, I topped up with fuel & moved over from the Fuel Dock to raft up beside 'Panacea'. So easy to waste time here - I seemed to spend most of that day just waiting around & filling in forms for checking in with Port Authority & Immigration, after going to Admeasurer's office to start Canal transit procedures.. Timing not helped by taxi-driver disappearing for what seemed like nearly an hour!!

Soon after midday, a day later, 'Nereida' was measured... I was expecting 8 a.m. but the Admeasurer went out first to boats at anchor on the 'Flats' so I had plenty of time to organize a shorepower connection (sounds simple but wasn't!) and make sure the boat was all ready for a 'safety inspection'... I cleaned & fixed in place a replacement starboard light (lost when hauling wet genoa back onboard after it fell into sea approaching S. Africa..) - obtained from the neighbouring Najad!

After that, I took a taxi in to Citibank to pay for Transit ($609 fee for boat up to 50ft, which I organized paying in cash, having heard of one boat which had a disputed card payment and ended up not being able to transit when they expected, & $891 returnable 'buffer', paid on Visa, (Mastercard etc not acceptable). Now I'm hoping for a cancellation or a problem for someone so I can jump in quickly!! All talk here is of transiting/linehandling! One boat was suddenly able to jump in to a gap last week at 15 minutes' notice - 13 days early!!! So there's hope!! Most boats are going overnight, stopping at Gatun Lake around midnight and finishing in the afternoon after an early morning re-start.

Colon town is so run-down - unbelievably so, with lots of turn-of-previous-century big buildings in state of semi-ruin, piles of rubbish lying in alleyways & lots of washing hanging out on balconies over narrow streets. One day, I chased around after a non-existent cheap cellphone.. then later watched a BIG ship being pushed way from berth opposite by two tugs, puffing and blowing... This is the same very sociable place I remember from '04 with everyone meeting up in the spacious restaurant & bar areas.

I'm busy with lots of boat jobs just now, whilst getting Windpilot repaired - it got pushed up 2 feet and rudder 'exploded' .. only steel rudder stock & flanges to be seen... no glass fibre outer !! Might have hit something in big following seas off Colombia on way here from Trinidad.. who knows?? Once it's finished (2-3 days more?) I'll make sure I'm ready at an instant's notice... gaps keep appearing unexpectedly but they're not always able to be taken up.... Thursday: Spoke to guy doing rudder repair - said that stock was slightly bent and he'd had to straighten it - so it looks as though I must definitely have hit something on way to Panama.

Tuesday was taken up with a well-overdue oil-change.... and while working in the engine compartment, I saw a load of freshwater in the bilges so I've been trying to track down the source - but it's not the tank mended in Trinidad. I suspected the hot-water tank but it was raining hard that day so checking that had to wait for better weather since access to tank is in cockpit locker under a load of stuff. In meantime, I remembered transom shower I've been using - on checking that, found everything in aft cabin locker very wet but shower fixture not leaking although there's definitely been leakage from heavy rain getting down via radar pole - radar wire had a big gap around it (now plugged!) where it went down a hole in the pole. After drying bilges several days running, there's still a definite slow leak from somewhere but it's not the freshwater tank nor the head or galley areas - more detective work needed!

Amazing how long some jobs can take .... I spent all of Thursday afternoon trying to make just four soldered joins - to fix a pair of LED compass lights in place. I don't think I'll ever win any prizes (maybe a booby prize?) for my soldering, but one wire was particularly difficult to tin prior to joining up ... and then I found that what I'd thought was 'heat-shrink' I'd put in place ready for finishing the join wasn't... grrr!

Bad news from Tuesday evening is that one gap appeared for Wednesday's overnight transit because the skipper of an anchored boat here was attacked viciously & aggressively - stabbed several times walking back to Y.C. from town. He was very lucky to survive - he has a pierced lung and bad shoulder/chest wounds. He is delivering a Moorings catamaran to N.Z. but didn't follow standard advice to get taxi back (just $1) through 'barrios' nearby.... I walked nearby there myself in daylight on Monday afternoon when returning from linehandling - it's only too easy to get complacent and think all will be OK on coming back to the Y.C.... Think it's taxis for all of us from now on!

Written by : Mike

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