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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Index of Interesting Blog Posts

Most Amazing

 A Lone Humpback Whale    

 Panama Canal Crossing

 Isla Talon


 French pastries delivered?!

 El Salvadorian chicken boat

 America's Cup Races

 French Canal Boat


Emotional or Funny

 Reaching the Canal

 We can't catch a thing

 Flying the Dingy

 Snakes on a boat Part 1

 Snakes on a boat Part 2

 Melissa can't fly a Spinnaker

 Embarrassing laundromat trip


 Helping the Mexican bureaucracy

 Squid attack!


Best Land Side Trips

 Caiman Capture!

 Swimming in the Amazon River

 Arches National Park

 Machu Picchu

 Best Zip Line

 Paying our first bribe

 Seeing our first wild monkeys

 Evening in Tlaquepaque

 Melissa attacked by monkeys

 Most beautiful cities in the world

 Oaxaca market day

 Monte Alban ruins

 El Salvadorian wedding

 Copan ruins

Scary Stuff

 A bump in the night

 Remind me why Greece is fun?

 Tried to kill the boat owner

 Getting caught in a fishing line

 Apsaras tries to sink herself

 Dark and stormy night at sea

 Fire aboard the boat!

 A scary marina entrance

 Michoacan Mexico Unrest

 Engine trouble at sea at night

 Automatic weapons fire?

 Frogman Mike


The MacGyver Stories

 Debugging the starter problems

 Outwitting the Panama Canal

 Bringing back the icemaker

 Fixing Saltydog's autopilot

 Saltydog gets a new navigation system

 Towing a boat across the bay

 SSB Seminar

 Stabbed by a broken beer bottle in Mexico

 Autopilot failure in Alaska

 Removing the washer/dryer

 Where is that leak anyway?

 The day Dave wanted to sell the boat

Rescue Stories

 Paddleboard Rescue

 Rescue on the Amazon River

 Fuel transfer at sea

 Aground & Rescue of Joint Decision

 Day 1 and Day 2 of fixing the generator




Current Journey - RSS Feed at http://svapsaras.com/entries.atom

She needs a little work

June 28, 2016

Today was all about getting the list of parts we need to do minor repairs.  So we measured, looked up part numbers, and generally tried to make sure we knew the full list of what needs to be done aboard the boat this summer.  Jim went to try and refill the propane only to find that the tank needs re-certification.  At one point we tried to refill the bumpers with air.  Where is the bike pump anyway?  After a scramble around the boat looking for it, it finally dawns on Melissa that its got to be in the dingy since we would have included it in the spares kit in case the dingy wheels went flat.  Sure enough, there it was, but so corroded as to be useless.  Ok, gonna need a new one of those.

After three years out, she needs a bit of work, though in truth she has come through the venture with relatively little in the way of deferred maintenance – at least as far as boats go.  Melissa got a kick out of using Smartsheet on her phone to record everything we found as we went through the boat.  Here is the list of things that needs attention:

The dingy need a fair bit of repairs.  Poor thing is looking pretty sad.  The handles are coming off, the tubes are popped and need repair.

The dock lines all need to be cleaned.  Dave was super happy that he chose the expensive Dacron sheets when we re-rigged the boat because they have held up and are still in really good condition.  Whereas some of the other lines were just shredded and useless having been destroyed in the UV.  A few of the fenders need to be replaced as they are beaten to death.

The WiFi extender antenna is dead.  Dave suspects that it’s the same failure it usually is with the Ethernet board.  He just needs to replace it with the spare we already have aboard.

There will be some decisions we need to make about the electronics aboard.  The main map at the console in the cockpit is dying – the LCD screen is damaged.  No surprise as the electronics are the original installation from 1998.  The VHF radio speaker is dead.  And there are some AIS system issues that Dave needs to troubleshoot.  Oh, and the stop button melted completely.  The batteries are probably dead.  Dave thinks they just aren’t holding a charge the way they used to.  That’s going to be a pain since they weigh 120 lbs each.  And of course, the generator still needs to be replaced.

The clear plastic windows on the bimini all need to be replaced.  We realize now that it is highly likely that when we had them re-stitched in El Salvador they stole our good Strataglass and replaced it with some kind of non-marine grade glass as the windows are all completely ruined and that just should not have happened – even in the heavy UV in Central America.

The deck needs to be waxed again, and all the stainless needs to be polished – it’s a mess.  But we are again surprised how well she did.  No aging of the fiberglass.  And we never did put a dent in her anywhere on the decks.  The lifelines are about dead though – they really should all be replaced.  And the speaker covers in the cockpit were totally destroyed by the sun.

The aft head needs a replacement of its duckbills in the toilet pump, but then when is that a marine head doesn’t need work?  Dave needs new fittings so he can reinstall the UV water treatment box.  Just couldn’t find them in Panama.

And a new coat of paint on her bottom and she will be like new!


Apsaras Settles In At Ladysmith Marina

June 27, 2016

We awoke to a warm and sunny morning.  After a breakfast of oatmeal, greek yogurt, berries, and honey we were off!

Big excitement for the day was a radio call to the coast guard from a sailboat that had gone aground just outside Telegraph Harbor where we were headed.  Several power boats responded.  We were on scene shortly thereafter, but by the time we arrived, the sailboat had successfully been pulled off the rocks by having one of the power boats pull on the sailboat halyard till she heeled over 45 degrees and could be floated off the rocks.

We pulled into Telegraph harbor and found it completely full up.  So we decided to head for Ladysmith Marina – where Apsaras will live for the foreseeable future.

A bit of maneuvering to back her into the slip in a light wind trying to blow us off the dock, but nothing Dave couldn’t handle.  After we got her parked, Dave tied down the final line, and Apsaras is now officially parked in her new slip.  We cracked open a bottle of sparkling shiraz to celebrate!

Dave confessed that he was a bit puzzled during the docking maneuver because he thought he was further away from the dock than he was.  We were all like, “huh?”  How after all these years of docking is that possible?  Turns out Dave can’t actually see the dock from the helm.  So he reads Melissa’s face and body language – basically when he can see she is ready to jump off he knows he is close enough.  But since Melissa was barefoot, she didn’t want to jump from as far as usual.  We all had a laugh about that!

Melissa started to load the pictures for the blog post, but we promptly ran out of carrier pigeons on the Rodgers SIM card we purchased a few days ago.  A Gigabyte doesn’t go as far as it used to.  We tried to turn off windows update, carbonite, and the one drive syncs, but we still chewed through the data in a few days.  The marina supposedly has WiFi, but apparently the connection sucks as we were not able to actually get any data transfer at all.  Dave calls Rodgers as they told him he could just call and add more data anytime.  Alas, they wouldn’t take a US credit card.  Even in Central America the cell phone companies would take our money!  So Dave and Jim headed off to purchase Rodger’s vouchers which can then be used to pay for more data. 

Thank goodness we have air conditioning.  The marina is hotter than blazes.  We didn’t figure we would need it up here, particularly in June but we won’t complain about the great weather the past few days!

Dinner was shrimp barbequed with mango.  Dave managed to grab the lid of the BBQ rather than the handle and burned one finger to a crisp.  Margaret had a laser that is designed to stimulate healing.  She used it on his finger and sure enough the pain was greatly reduced.

Do we remember how to sail?

June 26, 2016

After a quick breakfast of sausage and fruit, we scrambled around doing a few things to get ready to go.  We got provisions, and Dave picked up a Rodgers’s SIM card for our WiFi device so that we would have internet access for the next few days.  The Nanaimo marina WiFi was so bad that we haven’t been able to get email since we left Seattle and are now in bad need of an internet fix.  After loading the groceries aboard, we are ready to go!

Getting off the dock was going to be a tricky maneuver.  The wind is blowing hard on the stern, and while the rudder, prop, and keel are all now clean, we don’t know for absolute certain that will fix the steering and power issues.  So Dave has Jim, Margaret and Melissa all on deck manning the lines in such a way that we can release ourselves slowly from the dock and give him slack till he knows he has power and steering enough to control the boat in the wind.  Almost immediately after putting her in gear he can tell she is handling like her old self, and we cast off.

It’s a beautiful sunny day.  We made our way to Dodds Narrows where the current is ripping through at about 4 knots.  We debate whether to wait for a bit more slack, but the water looks pretty much like laminar flow, so it’s just going to shoot us through fast, but shouldn’t toss us about too much.  After waiting for the traffic coming the other direction we went through – Dave reported he didn’t have to turn the wheel more than a 1/8 turn to keep us lined up in the channel.  Sweet!  Time to put up the sails!

Putting up the main sail turns out to be a bit of a challenge because when Jim and Dave rigged her yesterday, they didn’t get the main sail rolled up inside the in mast furling just right.  So it keeps jamming up.  As when we bought the boat this happened a lot till Dave got the hang of the tension, he just works at it for 30 minutes or so till the sail comes fully out.  Margaret, Jim and Melissa “helped” by telling him when the sail was jamming up.  As though he couldn’t just look up and see for himself.

Melissa served lunch.  And just as we got the table set, Dave yells “hang on!”  And rather than hang on, the three of us turned to see what was the matter.  Dave swung the wheel over hard to go around a log and all the platters on the table went flying.  Note to self, next time the captain says hang on, we should hang on to the plates!  A fair bit of lunch was now on the floor of the cockpit.  Fortunately, Melissa and Margaret had washed the decks just two hours before, so we decide just pick everything up and keep going.  Margaret looks at Melissa and says “do I remember right that you used to have some non-skid thingies to put under the plates?”  Oh yeah.  Totally forgot about those.  Duh.  Guess we are totally out of the habit.

At some point along the way a rubber glove has melted itself to the side of one of the kayaks.  Jim gets out a scrapper and starts scrapping away.  Melissa joins in with a microfiber sponge and between them they manage to get it scrubbed off.  But the plastic scrapper Jim is using went overboard.  Since it floats, Dave decides to turn the boat around and go back and get it.  Jim leans over a bit far, and well, the picture tells the rest of the story.  Did Melissa offer a helping hand?  No.  She just kept snapping pictures.

After a lovely afternoon sail in very light winds we headed into Montague harbor.  Last time we were here was July 2013 when we were headed back to Seattle from Alaska.  Melissa shows Jim how to put the snubber on the anchor to take the tension off the anchor wench.

Dave decides to get out the Honda generator.  It won’t start.  Hmmm.  So Dave starts to take it apart.  Margaret helps by handing him tools.  While the thing is supposedly marine grade, Dave discovers that the carburetor is made out of steel and has rust in it.  The rust has clogged the jet.  He scrubs it all out, and uses a thin wire to clear the blockage in the jet.  He then blows on it.  Bleck.  Gasoline tastes terrible.  Puts it all back together, and it starts right up and she purrs like a kitten.

Jim cooked us a fabulous dinner with chicken, mushrooms, and tarragon served with wild rice and broccolini.  Sitting watching the sunset and drinking some really nice wine we found in the hold that had been aboard the whole trip was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Apsaras is Home!

June 25, 2016

The email we were sent said that Apsaras would be the first to offload at 9am.  Hooray!  So we met for breakfast at 8am, figuring we would be on the road around 8:45 which would put us on the dock easy by 9:00.  As we sat at breakfast, Dave asked about where the dock is that we are meeting the launch.  Melissa pulled up the email and found the attached map.  And buried in the email a note about being at the launch by 30 prior to our assigned time.  Ooops.  Gonna have to eat and run.  Dave’s phone rings at 8:35 and we figured they were going to tell us we were late.  Nope – it was Canadian customs.  They asked us a few questions, and then “Welcome to Canada”.  Whoo hoo.  No need to stop by the customs dock!  This is good because we aren’t sure given her rudder issues we know we have limited maneuverability.  Here is what the rudder looked like when it was loaded aboard in Panama:

We got to the launch at 9:00.  They were just hanging waiting for us.  They seemed utterly unbothered.  After dawning our life jackets, they took us over to where the AAL Dalian was docked. 

The reason they have to bring us over in the launch is that we can’t climb down to Apsaras in the water from the ship side – we have to board her from the water.  When we get there she is already in the water and the crew is working on getting the crane rigged for the next ship.  I guess that is what we get for being late.  Oh well.  We hop aboard.  What was the code for the lock on the door again?  The lock is so corroded Melissa can’t turn the dials.  Dave can’t see the lock numbers without his glasses – so Melissa reads the numbers as Dave turns the dials.  We’re in!  Dave engages the batteries, grabs the key, and heads up on deck.  She starts right up!  The ship tosses down the lines, and we are off.

We call Nanaimo marina and asked for a slip assignment.  They gave us an end spot we could pull straight into.  Fortunately, it was utterly calm, so our lack of maneuverability and lack of power were no issue.  Dave put her on the dock nice and easy as you please.

And now the work begins.  Dave and Jim start hauling out all the gear that had been stored below.  They re-rig the kayaks on the sides, mount the BBQ, and put up the sails.  While putting up the sails, Dave discovers he has put the shackle for the mainsail somewhere so safe he can’t find it.  Without it he can’t rig the halyard to the main sail.  Off to the marine store Jim and Dave go.  They return and as soon as Dave starts to hook up the halyard, there is the missing part –on the mast two inches from the halyard right where he left it.  Ok, guess we have a spare now.  They put up the bimini, and fill the water tanks. 

Meanwhile, Melissa and Margaret tackle the interior.  First the kitchen, where they tossed all the spices which were hard and disgusting.  All the flour, sugar, and dry goods were also tossed as they had bugs in them.  One of the cupboards was totally infested.  Fortunately, somewhere along the way – probably when the ship reached cooler climate – all the bugs had died.  So it was just a question of cleaning everything.  Became quickly clear the only thing to do was take everything out of the cupboards and wash it and clean out the cabinets before putting anything back in.  Margaret began to wash everything.  Meanwhile, Melissa started on cleaning out all the other cabinets.  Time to toss a ton of stuff.  Rules were simple, if it left Seattle with us and had never been used, out it went.  If it was only useful in Central America, out it went.  Lucky for us the marina has some huge dumpsters.

Before you know it, it was time for lunch.  We headed to the Mexican restaurant.  Melissa usually has good luck eating in Mexican restaurants even with all her food allergies because she can just ask them to dump the insides of a burrito into a bowl rather than in a tortilla.  Alas, this particular restaurant wouldn’t do that.  The only thing on the menu they were willing to serve her was a salmon dish smothered in avocado cream sauce.  Sigh.

With the decks in order, it was time for Dave to tackle scraping the bottom in hopes of getting our maneuverability and power back.  He and Jim head to the dive shop to get dive gear.  Dave suits up with Jim’s help.  In he goes.  Only to discover he doesn’t have enough weight on to be able to submerge.  Fortunately, we had a bunch of spare zincs aboard that he could stuff in his pockets.  Down he goes, only to have his main weight belt slide off his waste and down to his ankles.  He caught it before it dropped to the bottom with his fins.  He surfaces and Jim manages to grab the belt before it went under.  This would have been a problem since Dave wouldn’t have been able to retrieve the weights without a trip back to the dive shop for another weight belt.  Dave managed to scrape the rudder, and found that the prop was also totally covered with growth which explains the lack of power.  He scrapes the prop and about a third of the bottom before he runs out of air.

Margaret washes dishes, and washes, and washes.  Melissa finishes cleaning out all the cupboards and wiping down all the teak, windows, and everything else that was covered with mildew.  She then goes after scrubbing all the heads and showers.  In between Melissa and Margaret go up and down the ramp to the laundry washing all the bedding and towels to get everything nice and fresh.  Melissa tests the printer but it has died and can’t be brought back to life.  No big deal as up here we won’t need one anyway.  The TV did survive despite having been under a leak that started up during the rainy season in Panama.  The Blu-Ray player was not so lucky.  It was covered in corrosion.

By 6pm all the chores had been completed.  Apsaras is now free of the boat mildew smell, and there are even empty cupboards and drawers because so much stuff has gotten cleaned out.  Time to head out for dinner!  We drove down to the end of the bay and found a nice restaurant overlooking the marina.  Dave decided he had earned a big burger.


June 24, 2016

Jim and Margaret drove up to Canada and took the ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo.  Meanwhile, Dave and Melissa worked till 5pm and then headed up to Paine Field and then headed up in Spike.  Along the way we flew over the AAL Dalian and took pictures of Apsaras as she steamed for Nanaimo. 

We then landed at Nanaimo airport where we taxied for the customs holding area.  We phoned customs and gave them our info.  After a brief interview, “Welcome to Canada.”  We love Canadian customs.  They don’t feel the need to inspect every vessel inbound – particularly those that they have been in the system for years coming and going.

Jim and Margaret’s ferry docked a few minutes after we landed.  So they swung by and picked us up.  We were all starving so we drove into town and picked out a restaurant at random.  Four prime rib specials please.  It was the most tender prime rib any of us had ever eaten.  They slow cook it for 9 hours they said.  Yumo.  Then we headed to the hotel and checked in.  We were all asleep by 11pm.

Want to come along?

June 21, 2016

June 12 - Tonight we had dinner with Jim & Margaret to invite them to come along on the pick-up venture.  They enthusiastically accepted!  At this point we are guessing that the ship will arrive June 23 based on her current speed and AIS position.

June 20 – The shipper informed us today that the ship could be on time for the Thursday offload, but due to congestion in Victoria harbor, they can’t get a slip for her, and the offload might be delayed till Sunday.  Going to have to rearrange vacation schedules and take Mo/Tu rather than Th/Fr.

June 21 - The shipper informed us that they found a berth for the ship in Nanaimo and we will be offloading Saturday.  This is good news because then we will have a full four days to play with her!

She is back in the Pacific!

June 8, 2016

Dave awoke and drove to the airport.  While he was standing in the security line he hears, “Hey Captain!”  He turns to find the two crew that helped load Apsaras standing there.  Turns out they don’t travel aboard the ship, but fly from port to port to do the loading/offloading.

By the time Dave reaches Dallas TX, the AIS shows the AAL Dalian is already through the canal and cruising past Balboa Panama bringing Apsaras home.

Loading a boat on a boat

June 7, 2016

In the morning Dave checks the location of AAL Dalian.  She is parked “outside”.   This is not good as outside the bay the swell could make maneuvering up to the ship really dangerous.  Dave had figured she would come inside where it is calmer. Hopefully the swell is not too significant or it is going to be tricky.

Later in the morning she started moving. Perhaps she is coming inside the breakwater and she just parked out there last night because it was dark. Indeed, she is doing about 4 knots towards entrance as of 9:20 this morning. Around 10:30, she parked herself right outside Shelter Bay. Dave now realizes he has only a 1.5 nm course to get there.

Dave decided to head out and just hang out to watch the other boat offload.  He heads out of the slip, turns the wheel, and almost nothig happens.  Ever so slowly she starts to turn.  Dave realizes he is headed over to run into the boats on the other side of the fairway.  He hits reverse, and backs and fills inch by inch till he gets Apsaras turned.  The problem is that Apsaras’s bottom is covered with a small forest of marine life.  As a result, the rudder was super slow to respond.  He finally makes it out into the main channel out of the marina.  And now a big catamaran pulls in.  Dave isn’t sure he can pass side to side with her as the entrance to the marina is narrow.  But he doesn’t have manuverability to pull aside.  He pulls as far to starboard as possible and the cat sneaks by – just barely.

He starts across the bay and realizes he can only make 3 knots rather than the normal 6 because of the giant forest attached to the hull.  He reaches the ship and bobbs around for a couple hours getting totally fried. He should have put up the bimini.  Ooops.

Dave watches them off loading the power boat.

Now it was time to start the loading procedure.  They asked Dave to come along side.  As he approached they indicated they wanted me to rig lines fore and aft. OK, turn around so he can drift and rig up the long lines.  He gets them rigged, but as he hops back into the cockpit, he knocks the ship’s bell off its hook.  It goes flying across the deck and rolls to the very edge.  Dave thought it was going over, but it stopped just in time for him to grab it.

Then he pulled alongside the freighter such that the rope ladder was amid ship. They tossed down lines to tie my lines to and took them up. It got a little rolly at one point and the rigging was banging on the ship. Dave could just push himself off to make it stop.

Down came the diver who would place the straps under the boat in the right spots. Then came down another guy that did all of the raising commands. He had Dave loosen the topping lift so they could get the crane as close to the mast as they could.

They pulled the straps into place by lashing them back to the cleats on deck.  Dave had previously marked where he wanted the straps with blue tape on the deck to make sure he agreed with their placement.  Badly placed straps can mean the boat is out of balance and slips out of the straps.  He had no intention of trusting an unknown crew.  But when the diver hopped in, he knew they would get it right.  They were ready to go up in about 10 minutes.


They raised Apsaras until her deck was flush with the ship’s deck so Dave could hop off.

The work boat arrived to drop the captain of the 80 footer. Dave had to go down the rope ladder about 15 feet to the deck of the work boat. They took him back to Shelter Bay.  Dave had noticed that the AAL Dalian is flying a yellow quaranteene flag.  Technically that means she never cleared customs into Panama.  This makes sense as the cargo being loaded and off-loaded has to clear – not the ship itself.  However, when Dave hopped aboard, technically he left the country of Panama and should have had to re-enter the country.  No surprise that no one seems to care about this.

It was odd arriving back in Shelter Bay and realizing Apsaras wasn’t there anymore.  It was like being homeless.  Dave made the drive back into Panama City for another night’s stay at the Panama Hat Hostel.  Along the way he ran into a big traffic jam.  A truck carrying big cement blocks that were hanging over the side had to pass a bus on a narrow road.  Alas there wasn’t actually enough room, and the cement blocks cut a big hole down the side of the bus.  Ah, Central American driving.


Ready to go home

June 6, 2016

It poured down rain yesterday evening. No lightning nearby, though. Dave slept great. Nice to be back in his own bed (for those that don’t remember we put our good sleep number mattress on the boat before we left Seattle). Got up at 8 when the marina came and picked up the loaner dehumidifier that has keep the inside of the boat dry this past year.

Dave cleaned out the dinghy stashing everything below. Tied the dingy down. Poor thing – looks awful all deflated. Then he went up to the restaurant and had breakfast. He had forgotten how expensive it is here. $12 for juice, eggs, bacon and hash browns. The waitress first brought out a check for $8 then said, oh yes, the orange juice – that will be $12 without ringing it up again. Likely she pocketed the $4.

Dave talked to the customs agent Enrique again around noon. Sounds like Dave will get cleared out tomorrow morning starting at 9:00 and be loading the boat around noon. Dave relayed this to Melissa and she decided to book Dave tickets to come home Wednesday and a reservation at Panama Hat Tuesday night. We can always change them Tuesday if loading gets delayed.

Dave pittered around in the boat most of the afternoon having gotten most of the work done yesterday. He hooked up the VHF and AIS.  He had disconnected it all while were gone to save them from lightning. The antenna is on top of the mast so even a close hit is likely to fry anything attached. He then downloaded navigation software that lets him track the freighter and figured out how to get snapshots of bay. He doesn’t have any charts with him so he figured a Google Earth chart would suffice. Now he can see all the ships geo-referenced to a Google Earth image.

The GE2KAP navigation system has gotten pretty outdated. It requires an ancient version of Google Earth and is very fussy about the setup. Dave figures he could make a java thingy that does a better job getting tiles from Google Maps but doesn’t have time to mess about with it.

The red boat on the upper left is Apsaras. The blue line coming down the screen is Dave’s predicted path of the freighter. All of the green triangles are other ships. Dave should see our freighter the AAL Dalian come into range later this evening. The last he checked on her, she was about 175 nautical miles away and due in port around midnight. Here is a zoomed out view of the tracking of Dalian on marinetraffic.com since she rounded Cuba heading SW towards Panama.

Dave tested the engine again by leaving the battery charger off (just solar) all day. Started up just fine. So he figures we are good to go without buying another starter battery. Melissa pointed out that we can just bring one with us when we pick up the boat in Canada if we really want the redundancy.

Dave went up to the store around 3:45 to get something for dinner before they close at 4:00. As he was walking down the dock, he could see her locking up and leaving. Oh well, he figures he will dig around and see what canned goods we have on board.

Enrique called again around 4:00. He is on his way to do the final paperwork. He got here an hour late (back on island time).   When Enrique arrived, he and Dave went over all the paper work. The plan is that the AAL Dalian will anchor inside the seawall and Enrique will give me a call when to approach the ship. That means he has about a 2-mile cruise tomorrow – he doesn’t have to go all the way over to the docks of Colon. He expects to load around noon. The freighter’s only purpose is to drop two boats and pick up ours so it should be a quick exchange. Dave likes the fact that he will be approaching a ship at anchor because the winds will be easier to deal with. He will meet Dave there in the launch and take him back to the marina once loaded.

Here is the receipt Enrique gave Dave.  In the end it wasn’t clear whether he actually obtained the cruising permit nor the Zarpe (departure paperwork).  Canada and US don’t require any of that for entry of US flagged ships.  So the reality is that Enrique could have just pocketed all that money.  And as for the customs agents who were supposed to come aboard the freighter – for which we paid $500 for their inspection – no one ever showed up.  So who knows whether that money was used to grease palms or not.

At this point Dave is ready to roll.  Everything is loaded inside Apsaras for the journey home.  For dinner he digs up some canned tuna fish.  And wouldn’t you know it, there was a bone in the can.  He hates that!


How many things broke since we were here at Christmas?

June 5, 2016

Dave got up about 7:30 and had breakfast. A couple scrambled eggs and toast. He definitely would go back if looking just for a place to sleep. He checked on the freighter again this morning. They have slowed down a bit. The new forecast is Tuesday morning.

He hit the road sometime after 8:00. Traffic was nada being a Sunday morning so he flew into Colon. Everything was still closed so he just headed towards the marina hoping the little store would be open for water and beer. He has way more than a couple beer job ahead.

You have to drive around to cross the locks but the road to the canal observatory is paved to the top. It is still gravel down the hill to where you cross the new locks, though. The new lock gates are in on the lake side so he drove over them to get to the other side. The road out to Shelter Bay is still it’s awful self.

He got to the boat around 10. It looked great as the marina took the covers off and washed her. So he started getting her ready for shipment.

  • He took down all the lines he had rigged for the cover.
  • He took the cover off the dinghy and noticed the dinghy was flat as a pancake. The dinghy might be dead. It blew out one of the back end caps to the main tube.  We plan to get rubber dingy glue and try to repair her, but no hope of that till she is back in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Dave tries to start the main engines.  No dice.  Uh oh.  Looks like the starter battery is toast. Lots of voltage idle under charge but drops to 2 volts when cranking.  Dave jumped the main batteries over and the engine started right up.  That will be fine for the transit to the ship.   Dave tests is a couple more times off the charger so he can be sure he can restart. Although the start battery is dead as a door-nail, the house batteries seem strong and are holding a charge just fine. Not liking losing some redundancy, Dave figures it will make it the 2-mile cruise out to the freighter.
  • The main engine is sounding great, but the transmission was stiff going into gear.  He brought it back to neutral and it got stuck in neutral.  He fiddled with it for a bit but the plunger that you push to go into neutral was stuck in the down position.  This is way bad.  Dave realizes that in order to get to the linkages in the transmission he will have to disassemble the entire steering column and reassemble it.  He figures this is a two-day job.  He wonders what it would take to get a tow out to the ship as that might be his only way to get Apsaras aboard the freighter on Tuesday.  Assuming she really arrives Monday night.  Hoping for a better outcome, he starts lubing all the linkages.  He took off the lever and lubed everything he could get at.  He played with it for 60 minutes and it started to free up.  Whew!  And wouldn’t you know it, transmission feels better than ever before!
  • Dave removes the side solar cells and stashed them inside as nothing can be hanging off the sides during transit.  It was just as well as it looks like the controller for them is dead. Dave then discovers that the main solar cell connections have corroded and disconnected.  This is bad because Apsaras needs some charging during transit to make sure that the batteries stay alive, or we might not be able to start her when she is offloaded.  So Dave rewires the connections, and the big solar is working fine now.
  • Fortunately, a lot of what we were fretting about seems fine.  No mold on the interior, the fridge is working great, and the air conditioning units are running.  The extended WiFi antenna has died.  Dave thinks it is the power over Ethernet adapter again.  He has a spare somewhere but it’s not worth fixing right now.  The printer is complaining – maybe just needs reseating of everything. That poor thing has been through Hell.  Oh and the ice maker is toast.  The pump that transfers the water from the reservoir to the tray where it freezes is dead. Dave figures he could have adapted a windshield washer pump from a car but it was not worth a trip into town.  He does decide he wants to repair it though, if for no other reason than old time sake since he has fixed it so many times before
  • Time to put the steering wheel back on. Where in the heck is the woodruff key? Dang it. We knew we would lose it. We tried to buy spares but alas could never find them in quantities of less than 100. A woodruff key looks about like a nickel cut in half.  You install it in the tapered shaft that the steering wheel fits on.  It keeps the steering wheel from slipping.


  • Dave put the steering wheel on and tightened it up tight. Hopefully, it holds for the 2 mile trek across the bay tomorrow.  Losing your steering while approaching a shipping freighter would be very bad.

Dave calls Melissa to debate what we do with all the booze that is aboard.  Technically we can’t import that much into Canada.  No problem to leave behind all the Clos boxed wine – that stuff is barely drinkable.  But there are a few bottles of nice wine still in the hold.  Be a bummer to leave that stuff behind.  So Dave decides to just leave it be.  Worst case is that we declare it and pay for it again in Canada. Probably better than leaving it in Panama and having to restock later.

With no wind, it is hot outside. It is coming up 4:00 so maybe it is time to have a drink. Dave checks on the freighter again and she has picked up speed again. It is back on track for a midnight arrival tomorrow. 

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