Hurricanes are raging in the Caribbean. That’s why you have to be careful where you stay. They don’t come all the way down to Panama, here are only thunderstorms at this time of year, but almost daily and with lots of rainfall. So we stay in Panama for the time being. It took us a week to get halfway used to the climate again and to the fact that life is slower here. We rarely do more than one task a day.
As reported, the launching ceremony of an ocean pod was to take place in Linton Bay Marina. We departed before it started, so we only heard later that the precious pod tipped over on its side, allegedly because there was a problem with the ballast tank pumping system in one of the three arms. Even the President of Panama was present for the celebration. We missed out on a lot of excitement.
In Shelter Bay we are anchored and keep the crew of the Carry On company. They are sprucing up their boat because they have put it up for sale. (Carry On Sailing)
Shelter Bay Marina is at the end of a site that used to belong to Fort Sherman, a US military station that monitored the Panama Canal on the Atlantic side; on the Pacific side there was Fort Amador. Amador is now a tourist destination and well populated. The area on the Atlantic side remains jungle and nature conservation. For a time, soldiers were trained in jungle warfare on the site. In 1999, the area passed to Panama. Although Panama has no regular army, part of the site is used to train a kind of coast guard. We anchored in front of the barracks and could hear the trumpet calling for drill, see policemen doing the military early morning exercise and on land we once encountered a squad training in jogging lockstep. On two days we were constantly circled by a helicopter. This was part of an exercise to rehearse the rescue of injured people. Rumour has it that such a rescue from the jungle had not gone well just before. So the area around the marina is a curious mix of ruins and military-like use.
There is not much to do here, but there is always tinkering to do on the boat:
-Mathias installed a fan in the navigation table. And he replaced the day tank level indicator, which also got a switch. It turned out that it is not good when it is constantly switched on:
-The sensor for the anchor winch was renewed. Now the chain length is displayed again.
-Clamps for the furler lines (on the right in the picture)
-The mainsheet attachment points have been moved further out.
-Without picture: The seawater pump also works again. Here, a cable that was not suitable for marine use had completely oxidised away.
We went on a little excursion: We accompanied the crew of the Carry On in search of a waterfall. It was like in the good old days: four people plus a dog in a mini-small car. The dog had the most space in the boot area. The waterfall turned out to be quite small and hardly accessible. We only found the spot because Eva was able to ask the local residents and we were allowed to trudge across their pasture. After the pasture, we walked along a completely muddy path, our shoes looked accordingly, and on a forest path along two properties with small cottages. By the cottages were a couple of chickens that were just enjoying themselves on the other side of the path. An unacceptable circumstance for the Carry On’s dog, free-roaming chickens belong to be hunted. Whether she caught one was controversially discussed afterwards in our small group. On the way back, the dog was put on a leash as a precaution.
The time spent in Shelter Bay became longer than planned, then the day came when the Carry On was roadworthy again and the two could finally escape the marina life. We were scheduled to leave in the early afternoon, but the Carry On was already whizzing out of the harbour at 11 am. So it was time to quickly weigh anchor and get ready. So far, so good.
We were flabbergasted when we switched on the instruments. While everything had worked on the way here, now the plotter at the helm began to go haywire, no longer showing weather data or the ship’s position on the chart. The plotter at the navigation table, on the other hand, had no problems – almost no problems. The water depth was not displayed correctly and both plotters reported that there was no autopilot. Switching off and on several times, rebooting all brought nothing. The autopilot stayed dead. There were several thunderstorms during our layover in Shelter Bay and also lightning very close to us on two occasions. Could this have affected the autopilot and the plotter? For the time being we could do nothing. The distance to Portobelo is not long and during the trip we did not want to switch the autopilot to the second one. So Mathias steered himself. The wind was good, we even had to reef once in order not to get too much pressure on the rudder on a downwind course. The Carry On arrived first in the Portobelo bay. When we took down the sail, the main halyard got completely tangled. This had never happened to us before and now of all times we were under observation. Anchoring itself was almost normal again, the counter for the anchor chain length is working again. But we didn’t know the water depth very well. But in the end we were behind the Carry On. James paddled over. He had had his dinghy outboard overhauled in Shelter Bay and the people had forgotten to return the fuel line from the tank to the engine. We were able to quickly lend him ours, as we use the electric motor anyway. Together we went to the local restaurant. The food was ok, but nothing special, but they have a dinghy dock.
The next morning, the Carry On set off for Colombia, wanting to take advantage of the wind at the edge of a low pressure area to cross quickly. The fact that it was raining cats and dogs didn’t bother them. A bit of warm rain can’t shock an Irishman ;).
We stayed and Mathias went to investigate the cause for the system failures. He was busy all day, but by the afternoon he had managed it: the second autopilot was working! It doesn’t get any wind data, so it can only steer on „heading hold“ (pointing the bow of the boat), but hey, we’ll manage. The very next day we were able to test the whole thing. There was still some wind from the storm, so we sailed on to Linton Bay. The autopilot did well, we still have to adjust a few settings, but at least we can replace the first autopilot in peace, meaning Lukas can bring us a new one for Christmas. (For people who understand: The second autopilot is on its own little NMEA2000 bus, which is normally switched off and therefore not easily affected by lightning. It has only one connection for a touch panel and one for instruments. So a small simpler system that is not so error-prone).
We anchored again in Linton Bay. The marina is quite busy at the moment, so it may take another few days before we can be lifted out. We can still take our time, because we will have to stay in this area during the hurricane season.
P.S: By now, we are on the hard, working diligently and have sore muscle pains in muscles that we were not even aware of before. More of this in the next blog……