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Is that boat sinking?!

Posted on Friday Dec 19, 2008

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On our way to do some internet and find a cold beer with Nakia, John points out a boat and says, "Is that boat taking on water?" It was sure low in the water and moving a little funny. Thinking only about cold beer John kept going. I said, "Shouldn't we go over and take a look? Maybe we can get inside one of the hatches."

I jumped aboard and started trying hatches. I got one open and looked inside to see my own reflection sloshing around. The boat was probably 1/3 full of water and filling fast. John took off with everyone else to get more help. I found a switch for "bilge pump" which did nothing. Some others arrived and I asked them to bring some tools and buckets. Someone else arrived with manual bilge pump handle and a big grin. I told them there isn't a manual pump that I can find.

The boat was taking on water fast so I decided to try to climb inside and try to locate the hole. It wasn't easy getting in because there was a door in the way of the hatch, but I squirmed inside and opened the other hatches. The water inside was up to my waist, full of diesel, oil, plastic, paper and god knows what else. The water was so murky I realized there's no way I'm going to find the leak from inside. I can't even find the through-hull fittings without a scuba mask and a waterproof light.

I slowly waded around the murky water on the boat checking the usual spots, hoping to see a rush of current or something. Then I heard a gurgle sound. I followed it to the galley. It was louder and there seemed to be a little current in that area. I felt under the sink and found a detached pipe that was gushing water. Please let this be it, I thought. I could feel the water rising it was rushing in so fast. My guess was 30 to 40 minutes before the boat went down.

I knelt down in the mucky water and tried to find the seacock, but it was under about 3 feet of water in a dark recess. So I set to work trying to plug it. With some effort I reattached the fitting that went to the sink and the flow appeared to stop. If the water level had risen another foot, it would have continued to siphon into the boat, but for now the sink was high enough that it stopped the water flow.

In the meantime a group outside had started working on getting the main companionway hatch open. I would feel safer if I had an easy exit from this boat. Everything was sloshing around. I made a mental note of the water level in case I hadn't found the main leak. As soon as the hatch was open we started a bucket brigade passing up gallons of nasty water. Someone dropped in to the main salon hatch and they started their own brigade. Soon we had people with generators and electric pumps to help remove water. It appeared the level was going down slowly.

Nearby, a ferry was anchored with a Panamanian crew who saw what was going on. They came over and offered use of their diesel powered pump. After some work (they are tough beasts to prime) we got that baby going and sucked the boat dry in about an hour.

The owner showed up in a complete daze. There were probably 15 people, 2 generators, 2 electric pumps, 1 big diesel pump and buckets of water flying all over his boat. I found out later he was a young Argentinian who was planning to use the boat to do charters. Everyone felt bad for him because his boat was a big mess. At least we saved it from going down as it was sinking fast.

The Panamanians it turned out were crew for the big ferry in the anchorage and one of them told us he surrvied a sinking ship once in 20 foot waves. He spent 4 hours in the water and when he saw the sailboat sinking he had to help. It was amazing how fast everyone pulled together and saved that boat.

This is the second boat I've helped bail out now. This boat ended up in a lot better shape than IVY ROSE from San Juan del Sur Nicaragua (if you remember that story). The fast work of everyone involved kept the boat from getting too damaged, but it's going to be a big mess to clean up and restore.

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Panama City!

We spent a couple of days at Contradora walking the island, swimming, catching up on our 300+ email messages and spending an hour on the phone with Paypal trying to get them to fix something. It was a little like work but a slow re-introduction to civilization.

Despite this, I don't think we were quite ready for Panama City. We could see the skyscrapers from 20 miles off and we knew right away this was going to be a different kind of place. It's busy with ships everywhere, people everywhere and FOOD everywhere. We had a fantastic Italian dinner with fresh mushrooms! Oh it was so good.

Our new batteries are waiting for us - shipped in from Florida. And we've already set our sights on Indian food! The anchorage is a bit disappointing. It's crowded and the constant stream of ships going by creates surprise waves just when you think it's calm. I suppose we'll get used to it as there are really no other options. Anchoring alone costs $5/day for landing your dinghy on shore. God forbid you land on the beach were they will have a fit and try to fine you $500.

All in all I think New Years in Panama City shows some promise and this is certainly a place where you can buy anything, if you have money that is.

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Two hours from cold beer and food

Posted on Thursday Dec 11, 2008

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We spent last night at a slightly cleaner anchorage. The shore line still looked like a garbage dump but the water was free enough from trash that I could dive on the bottom to clean it and change a zinc. Our friends on Blew Moon said the other parts of the Perlas weren't trashed like the Eastern side of Isla del Rey. I hope so!

We are on our way to Isla Contradora where there is a store! Finally food and cold beer! We are tried of eating dried goods and are desperate for something fresh!

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A sea of trash

After a while you get used to seeing plastic junk floating around here and there -- especially in the tidal steams. But when people have been carrying on about how fantastic the Perlas Islands are we didn't expect to sail into a stream of garbage. Linda thought the trees were full of colorful birds until the binoculars revealed a colorful array of plastic bags caught in the trees.

The water is really clear. You can easily see the garbage drifting by even 10-12 feet down.

I don't know what the deal is. There is another group of sailors north of us at a different island and they said they're covered with trash too. The natural beauty here is stunning, if you can look past the trash.


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Golfo de San Miguel

We bailed out of Pinas at 3am in order to make headway to a remote area known as the Darien. This is a deep systems of rivers and mangroves where mostly indigenous people live and I'm talking dugout canoes palm frond hut kind of places.

However while underway our buddies on Nakia had their engine go a little wacko on them. So rather than travel deep into the jungle rivers (which involves a lot of motoring) we are going to work our way to Panama City. This works out ok despite the change of plans. Our boat's batteries are totally shot. In fact back in Ecuador we had to give up our nice large 6V batteries because they had totally failed. I found a guy there in town who sold me a large (well used) 12V battery for $20. This $20 battery has held up, but we have to run the engine quite a bit because it doesn't have much capacity. And waiting there in Panama City is a nice pair of even bigger 6V batteries waiting for us. We can't wait to have real power back on board the boat and we can quite our extreme conservation measures.

Also we are running out of food. We were unable to resupply in Solano. Rice and beans anyone?

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Bahia Pinas Panama

We said goodbye to Colombia and the friendly people of Bahia Solano yesterday. The ferry that bring produce to the little town never did arrive, although it was rumored to be coming a few hours after we left. The vagaries of remote towns.

Our trip north was smooth, but there was hardly any wind. We struggled from time to time to get the boat moving in light winds and then it would die, or switch. All in all we ended up motoring most of the 90 miles through rain squalls and shifty winds.

Bahia Pinas (Pinaple Bay) is yet another pretty jungle place with clear water. Oh how we suffer.

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Website Trouble

Posted on Wednesday Dec 3, 2008

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Sorry to those who came to our site only to find it out of order. Apparently something happened to it while we were out sailing around. Our host provider fixed the problem and now I`ve restored the Slog posts, all should be back to normal.

Gorgona gougers and Ensenada Utria

I forgot to mention our snafu that occured at Isla Gorgona. So let me back up a bit. Imagine our shock finding out the hotel decided the price we negotiated was not valid. Instead they wanted the commercial rate, which is 10x more. Conveniently the guy who agreed to our buoy price couldn't be found anywhere and the manager disavowed all knowledge of the agreement even though he was sitting right there the whole time. We wondered if something was up because we tried to pay for our buoy 3 times and each time we got a vague story from the guy about the system wasn't ready for our payment and to try tomorrow. It was quite a fiasco. We argued down the rate to something we could actually pay, and then left.

Anyway, after Bahia Coqui we arrived in a paradise called Ensenada Utria. It's a national park in a deep fjord-like cove where the water is flat calm. There are miles of jungle and mangroves. I dove on a sunken boat and found large schools of fish and there is even a spattering of coral around. The people here are really nice and have brought us coconuts, papayas and platanos.

Today we had our first real rain and the boat is finally getting some of that Ecuador Dirt off the sails and rigging. We will be departing for Panama shortly. The northerly winds will be starting soon so we need to get north before that happens!

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Golfo de Tibuga

Posted on Thursday Nov 27, 2008

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This post contains a GPS location. Click here to see it on the map.

About 38 hours of sailing brought us 200 miles further north. We're anchored in an area where tourism is trying to grow slowly in Colombia. There are some small resorts here and a large park that is famous in Colombia, but it is remote and quiet here.

Although we've been traveling about 15-30 miles off the coast, there has been almost no boats anywhere. We saw for ships going into the big port of Buenaventura, but nothing else. At night we sometimes see the stars break through the clouds and Venus and Jupiter are usually the first to break through. Rain cools things down and it comes every night in some form or another, often as a gentle spray. The wind seems to never stop and there is a mysterious current from the Humbolt and the Equatoral Current that pushes us along and makes the sea a choppy confused mess. With the consistent wind we're able to sail fast and even when we try to slow down we find we can't.

The Colombians themselves have been very curious about us and our sailing machines and ask lots of questions. Sometimes I feel we must look like aliens to them as we bounce and roll along in our boats.

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Gorgona Magic

Posted on Monday Nov 24, 2008

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So far we've seen two animals that only exist on this island: a frog that walks and a lizard that is bright blue. We've had a large whale shark feeding around our boat with its pup in circles at night. We had a great hike around the island and we've topped up our water tanks from the islands run off.

We're waiting for a good weather window to head further north, but it is going to be hard to leave such a beautiful place. I'd write more, but the whale shark is back.

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