2-28-09 The great alternator caper

What a day. We got our zarpe yesterday morning during our (we thought) last run to town on the Shelter Bay Marina shuttle. We paid our marina bill and had made arrangements to depart early morning. The weather window looked good for going east; there haven't been too many of those good ones lately. So, we get up early, pad around in the dark, have the boat ready to go, fire her up....and no alternator output. Michael had just started the engine two days ago and everything checked out fine. We had installed our new (used) Balmar alternator that we bought in Nov. We were told it had bench tested fine. Well, it did perform for just a little while! Meanwhile, no problem; we have spare alternators aboard, so into the engine room with alternator number two goes M, we start up the engine and....no alternator output. See a pattern here? Alternator number two was just picked up from a local auto repair shop here in Colon. We had no way to bench test it, so basically took the guy's word that it worked fine. Hmmm. OK, so it's on to alternator number three. Same thing! In the meantime, we're checking the regulation, wiring, fuses, star and sun alignment...anything to figure out what's happening. By this time, M's back is sore, as crawling into the engine room on his side and attaching the alternator is, literally, a pain. Alternator number four went in, but you can proably guess the rest. So, there are four non-functioning alternators aboard, which has to be some kind of record. The regulator, and even a spare new regulator, appear to be working fine, and diode testing of the alternators reveal bad diodes. How can that happen, you ask? We certainly don't know! M finally went back to the office and told the crew we weren't leaving for a bit...We'll sleep on it tonight and start some more diagnostics tomorrow, and if any of you are experts, please reply to this posting! We're thinking of just buying a new alternator, getting one of the others fixed by an alternator shop in Panama City, returning the one to the local shop in Colon, and gettin' on down the road. Actually, we have to return to Panama anyway, as the laptop isn't done yet, but that's another story...M's still pretty stiff, so I'm going to go and give him a massage... I think I heard him mumble something about "more rum...."

2-18-09 Back from Panama City

We took our 8 month old Acer laptop into Panama City to the authorized service center for warranty repair (Tecnotek 507-279-8400). It appears to be an electrical problem as the computer won't turn on, but as you can imagine, we're not impressed with Acer right now. We were picked up and driven around town by Jose, a taxi driver recommended to us by some cruising friends. (Jose: 6690-4170; Spanish only). He's a really nice guy, and took us all over the city to a variety of stops. We had scheduled Michael for some routine medical tests to be done at Punta Pacifica Hospital. It's in a very modern section of Panama (City), and it's services are first rate. The physician Michael saw was US trained, bilingual, and has already e-mailed his complete report to us! Medical tourism is a growing industry in Panama. Otherwise, since Tecnotek won't ship the computer back to us upon completion (their policy is pick-up only), we're going to have to make another day trip back to Panama to pick it up. It's Carnival time in Panama, so we're expecting a delay in service. After that, we'll figure out our zarpe and try to get out of the marina! Not that we don't like it here, but....

2-14-09 Happy Valentine's Day!

A great start to the day... my Valentine joined me for a morning walk! Our friend Sergio joined us...he spoke Spanish (one of his five languages - we still have a LONG way to go!) with the park ranger when we stopped at the entrance to the San Lorenzo Park. We had visited the fort at San Lorenzo when we took Infini into the Chagres River. The fort sits at the entrance on the bluff. We didn't want to walk the 10 miles by road this time. The road goes through undeveloped jungle (that's all there is for miles and miles around here)...so our eyes were peeled for anything that moves. We heard the howler monkeys before we saw them. The toucans were making a loud racket, and we watched them maneuver amongst the branches for awhile. The strange coati meandered across the road. The woodpeckers are huge and colorful down here...and the blue morph butterflies are still a favorite. I'm still hoping to see my first boa in the wild. We visited a beach called Playa anam Diablo,where Michael found one of our favorite sea beans in the heart shape....I put it in the middle of the pictures of other beach combing finds.
Our plan is to get some things done in Panama City early next week, then get back out on the anchor!

2/4/09 Canal transit aboard Carl Linne

We were invited to serve as line handlers aboard the megayacht Carl Linne. She's a 106' custom Dutch built cutter/sloop (2003), and is, as one might expect, absolutely beautiful. The Captain, Greg (Australian), and crewmembers Steve (Canadian) and Gabi (Swiss) were very gracious and we hope we helped a bit to contribute to the history of the yacht, as it had never been in the Pacific before. We side tied to a tug for the first part of the transit Tuesday evening, and the next day side tied to small passenger ferries on the way down to the Pacific. We didn't have to tend any lines this way, and the entire transit went very smooth and was quite enjoyable. If you're interested, the Carl Linne is available for charter at http://www.charterworld.com/index.html?sub=yacht-charter&charter=carl-linne-1373. We returned to Shelter Bay Marina via taxi with the five large bumpers borrowed from Song of the Sea, the 112' Swan docked here.
The winds and seas are really starting to build, and the next few days should bring very unsettled weather to the area. Pictures of the yacht and transit are in our Photo Albums link.

2-1-09 Beach clean-up

A bunch of cruisers from Shelter Bay Marina got together to clean up a section of beach at the intersection of the western most breakwater into Cristobal Bay (Colon) and the mainland. You can walk on the breakwater out to the entrance where the big ships come in, but it's slippery and dangerous, and most cruisers are content to walk the beach or jungle paths. This section of beach chosen for clean up had tons of plastic and debris, refuse from who knows where or when. The crew from the 86' Nordhavn, Cari Ali, organized the endeavor, and even brought trash bags for everyone. Plastic, rubber and trash were bagged by about 20 cruisers throughout the morning, and it's hoped that we have made just a small difference in this beautiful area. Michael's left of center in jeans, gray T shirt, and cap. It's too bad that in so many places ecology and recycling aren't a priority at all. Mother earth and our seas are surely suffering from this oversight.