We left the Perlas Islands early and, with no wind, we motored the whole way back to Balboa (Panama). I spent most of the time replacing one of the UV damaged straps on our sprayhood, otherwise the trip was uneventful and we arrived in the anchorage at about 3:30pm.
We met up again with Cameron (Aussie), Sharon (Scot) and Lewis (Son) on their 40 year old GRP boat called Timella for a few drinks later.
Saturday 21st April 2007
The crew of Timella gave us a lift to shore this morning and came with us on our dinghy hunt. The chandlery adjacent to the anchorage was the first stop and they said that they could get a dinghy the next day. Next stop was a Suzuki dealer that also sold Suzuki outboard engines. They were closed but the tradesman’s entrance was still unlocked – Cameron blustered his way in and we were invited inside. Cameron immediately started some hard bargaining and brought the price down by a couple of hundred dollars until they were eventually haggling about 20 dollars. My view was that the “Caribe” dinghies were too heavy and Fliss would have difficulty when we came to carry it (with engine) up the beach. Anyway, the only available one was hanging in the roof and the person who could lower it had knocked-off for the day.
Evening was spent with the Timella crowd onboard Naz. Cameron wants to cruise the first part of the Pacific with company and we agreed to sail with them. Unfortunately, they have a host of jobs to complete on Timella but we agreed and gave a personal deadline of one week. So, the pressure is off the dinghy hunt for the moment.
Sunday 22nd April 2007
The lift ashore came courtesy of Timella again and Cameron suggested that we had breakfast a superb greasy spoon that he had found, conveniently located near a chandlery. He described the picture of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, fried bread, sausages and all the trimmings and guaranteed that it would all be swimming in luscious quantities of fat. When we arrived, the self-serve counter was filled with curries and pastries and cakes – we were all devastated – what sort of fare is that for 9:30am???? The curry was actually quite good but a bit odd for the first meal of the day.
The chandlery could only offer a fresh-water fishing dinghy and rest of the afternoon was spent on a fruitless search for other dinghy outlets and second-hand shops.
Monday 23rd April 2007
Help! The dinghy supplier by the anchorage sells Zodiac dinghies that are much more expensive than the ones at Suzuki but are lighter, faster and stow more easily. A phone call to trusty father confirms that they are a good make and you can’t really go wrong with them. So, mind made up I go to order one.
The chap in the shop rang head office and said that I could pay $200 extra to have it delivered from Colon (50 miles away) to which I replied that I could hire a taxi and collect for $45. He spent another 20 minutes on the phone and said that it would actually only be ready by Thursday and could be delivered free of charge. I asked whether he could not get it sooner and, after another half an hour on the phone, he said that it would now not be delivered until Saturday because it was stuck in customs??!?!?
Cameron does odd boat jobs around the anchorage and is also a qualified rigger. His current job is to get a poor SSB installation on another yacht working. The other yacht had 2 SSB's and he took the older one out yesterday - it is now sitting on my chart table ready for installation. In return, I am going out to source a water foot-pump for him and install it as well as help with a problem with his boom and rudder.
I had a lovely day shopping with my dear friend Sharon. We caught the local bus into town and at 25 cents (12.5 pence) it’s well worth doing. It was great browsing around the shops with someone who wants to do it! Pete is very tolerant and when I ask him if he likes it he just says “yes, just buy the damn thing”. Clothes’s shopping is fantastic as everything is so cheap, I saved so much money!! I bought three summer/casual dresses, bikini, 5 t-shirts, new purse, super glue and the bill came to £20.
Tuesday 24th April 2007
I purchased the new water-pump and went over to Timella to fit it. Of course, the new pump is a different shape and size to the old one and the foot-operated lever refused to line-up with the original hole in the bulkhead. The only thing for it was to build a shelf to support the pump and cut another hole. The whole of the afternoon was spent making a shelf of contorted design and dimensions of sufficient strength to support Cameron’s bulk just in case he pumps too hard (he is over 6 feet tall and built to match).
As the deadline for departure to the Galapagos Islands is scheduled for Sat/Sunday Sharon and I headed off to re-provision Timella, I was really grateful that Pete and I had stuck to our plan of not dipping into our tinned supplies, as I really didn’t need to get much, apart from rum. According to the Cruisers Network a bottle of rum in the South Pacific Islands will set you back $50 a bottle, cigarettes are also very expensive at $10 a packet (UK prices) so I stocked up, here its $4 dollars for 200. Rolling tobacco is very difficult to find in Panama but after asking around we found one place that sold it, so Pete’s stocked up.
Downtown Panama is amazing, very cosmopolitan with high and impressive skyscrapers, the whole area looks very affluent. This is where the rich Panamanians shop! But Sharon and I preferred the old town as not only did it suit our purses but it is steeped with old Spanish style houses with impressive iron lattice work balconies and pretty window baskets. You can wander safely through little back streets and come across a church or a lovely little square, it really is a great place to explore.
Wednesday 25th April 2007
At 08:00, the yachties all tune in to channel 69 on the VHF for a chat about who has arrived, who is leaving, any assistance (ie: where can I find a dentist? Has anyone got an angle-grinder I can borrow etc), and spare kit (trash) for sale. First on the agenda this morning was Cameron. He had woken up to find that his dinghy had been stolen at some point the previous night along with the outboard engine. This is devastating as the dinghy is the workhorse of any anchorage, getting ashore, ferrying provisions etc. The hardest part is that he is strapped for cash and cannot really afford to buy even a half-decent second-hand one.
The irony of it is that it must have been the worst dinghy in the anchorage since the transom was strapped in with a bit of rope meaning that you were always knee-deep in water. The propeller on the engine was not fully attached to the drive-shaft and the starter cord recoil was missing so that the casing had to be removed before starting with a piece of spare rope wound around the top of the flywheel and pulled hard.
More shelf-fitting today but the job can’t be completed because I need Cameron’s thumbs-up for cutting the new hole. He is up the mast of a boat nearby, diagnosing some serious faults. He was a rigger in a past life and charges his services out at up to $50 per hour. Hang-on, why am I doing work on his boat? Oh yes…….the free SSB unit.
Talking of dentists……my false front tooth has come loose again, so I made an appointment to get it fixed.
In the evening, I spent an hour getting his boom-end away from the boom. It had been glued on with chemical metal but was not too tricky to extricate. Then, food and drinkies on Timella.
Thusday 26th April 2007
I went to the dentist, had an x-ray plus an examination and the conclusion was that the root was breaking up – same conclusion that the dentist in Antigua had given. The root could cause me problems across the Pacific and needed to come out, so the dentist took imprints of my teeth and told me to come back at 3:00pm to have it removed and have a temporary bridge fitted (it should last about a year).
Back to the dentist and an hour and a half later I had a new bridge. Ok, it didn’t fit very well and had all sorts of bits poking out inside my mouth but the dentist told me to return the next day and tell her how it felt once the anaesthetic had worn off.
Fliss and I are now compiling our guide to “Dentists of the World”, this one is not rating well.
Soup for dinner tonight.
Friday 27th April 2007
This morning I finally get around to fitting the water pump on Timella and then making a teak facia to tidy up the old hole and screws.
In the afternoon, Fliss and I went back to the dentist and, after a good deal of grinding and shaping, it feels much better. However, the inside shape of my teeth has changed so much that it has left me with a lisp. I am hoping that I will get uthed to it thoon tho that I can thpeak properly again. The dentist thtill getth the thumbth-down.
The dinghy is here! We return to the chandlery carry it to the dock, pump it up, and we are mobile again! With an inflatable keel, it moves twice as fast as the old dinghy using half the fuel and has the added bonus of not soaking us with saltwater spray. We give it the thumbs-up and I attach a heavy wire strop and padlock to it.
We have offered Timella the use of our old dinghy for the passage across the Pacific. Cameron did not look too enthusiastic since it is over 20 years old and has a hole that is increasingly hissing air. We have spoken to a local who has given us the location of professional repairers, so we will go there tomorrow.
I was due to go with Sharon to get their Zarpe this morning but she wasn’t feeling very well. Bad timing as at 12pm today Timella gets lifted out, last thing you want when your not well.
I was grateful for time on the boat as Nadezhda had become slightly neglected as Pete and I were concentrating our efforts on getting Timella ready for the off. It was good to get Nadezhda ship-shape again.
Last minute panic on Timella as the boat battery was low and they couldn’t start the engine, eventually the engine started, anchor up and off they went to get Timella lifted out onto the hard.
Saturday 28th April 2007
The professional dinghy repairers did not exist and a fruitless search was made to find an alternative.
Such a shame we couldn’t get the dinghy repaired but we took a taxi to see how Sharon, Cameron & Lewis were getting on.
I have never met such a lucky man! the night before Cameron had met another Ozzie Yachtie who happened to be a boat builder, he offered to take a look at the rudder for Cameron. The Ozzie chap turned up and said that they had a bearing missing on the rudder, he took some measurements then jumped in a taxi, found what they were looking for and hey presto it fitted like a dream.
Next job was to anti-foul Timella’s bottom, word is that you add chilli powder to your anti-foul and nothing will stick to it. Sadly no chilli powder could be found on the boat so Cameron added Thai Green Curry sauce to the amusement off the local boat workers.
Realising we were in danger of not getting away (the beers were being distributed) we made a swift exit to pick up our gas bottles and the last of our provisions.
Pete and I had heard that there was a Swedish Butcher who sold vacuumed packed meat that lasted for three months if you keep it refrigerated.
Thank god we asked for directions on the cruisers net as we would never have found the place.
We bought 6 packs of two rib eye steaks (so big that you could cut one in half and it would feed both of us, three packets of sausages, 6 packs of two pork chops, 3 large packets of ham. As we were about to pay the guy serving us said that the smoked beef was wonderful, so off he went and came back with some for us to try… he was right it was delicious! So we bought six packs, the bill was £30, so cheap! The Pacific passages are going to be a gastronomic delight on the good ship Nadezhda.
Our “Playmates” aren’t playing tonight so Pete & I settled down for a quite night, the 1st one in many weeks.
Sunday 29th April 2007
We removed the patch from the old dinghy this morning, cleaned it up and applied it to the inside of the hole. The plan is to then put another patch on the outside and hope this works. Apart from the hole, the dinghy is reasonable and will make a good spare.
I did my usual pre-departure mast-check and was relieved to find that there are no obvious issues. Timella has a problem with her roller-furling headsail and so I agreed to go up her mast and have a look. Yes, Cameron is a rigger and should go up himself but the winches to haul him up are not man-enough to do the job. Being half the size of Cameron, his bosun’s chair was too big for me and I rattled around in it. Also, I had to help with hoisting myself up the mast (remember the puny winches?). I hoisted myself manually up in the same fashion as climbing the greasy-pole at village fetes and pulled myself up out of the bosun’s seat, a bit of frantic scrabbling later and I was back in but took the skin off my ankle and knee.
The upshot is that Timella needs a means of guiding the halyard away from the roller-furler and that they will not now be able to leave with us tomorrow. They also have a problem with loss of fresh water – a serious issue – and we do not know when they will be prepared to leave. Anyway, we will stay in the Galapagos for a while, if it is not too expensive, and we hope they will catch us up there.
Just for the record Pete is now banned from going up anyone’s mast without the correct and fitting safety gear. They may be small cuts but in this climate injuries take longer to heal due to the humidity. We will have to keep an eye on the cuts and the nasty graze on his ankle.