March 28 Back in Kuna Yala Land

N09deg.35' W078deg.52'
We had a nice motorsail to Chichime in the San Blas (45mi.) It's great to be back to the world of small, sandy, palm tree covered islands with friendly Kuna Indians. The crystal clear water...sound of the surf, and many places to explore underwater will be a nice way to spend our last month before we fly back to the states & Europe for graduations! This area sees a significant increase in the number of visiting yachts every year flying flags from many different countries. Some anchorages are very crowded...but there's always another choice not far if you want solitude.

March 21 Isla Linton N09deg36.7min W079deg.35.0min

We're back at one of our most favorite places...along with about 18 other boats.
It was a motorsail to get here again, with confused, short choppy seas. This time of year the wind is out of the east...of course the direction we're headed. Michael figured how to get our e-mails (Sailmail) using our phone/computer instead of SSB/computer. (We still need to be in phone range for a signal). So much faster and less work! One step at a time! We ran the Honda generator for the first time when we ran the water maker. Keeping up with battery health/status is so very important. Energy use vs. input is a constant check. The wind and solar are a huge help in this area at this time of year. We were excited to see our Florida friends Joe and Helen on Deja Vu anchored next to us...(they've now left their boat in Panamarina, and flew north for the summer. Michael also took the time to make a nice bowl from a calabash gourd....very light, great for chips or popcorn!

3-15-09 Portobello N09deg33.4min W079deg39.9min

Had a nice motorsail slog to windward in 20 knots ENE, and arrived Portobello for lunch. Everything continues to work fine, and today we'll run the watermaker, which hasn't been run since it's been pickled in Nov. Our friends Marilyn & Ken from Dream Ketch'r have already called to say hello, so it looks like we'll stay awhile and explore before heading towards Linton. The Tohatsus 9.8 started right up on the first pull after not being used for four months. So far, so good. It's sure nice when everything works as it should!
We're going ashore to explore Fort San Fernando, which sits on a bluff just off our port bow.

Sat. March 14 Isla Naranjo Abajo

We made it! Finally, we left Shelter Bay Marina after arriving there a little over three months ago. Of course, there was a trip back to the States, high winds, charging issues, etc....but we left early this morning and motorsailed in a stiff ENE breeze to our favorite nearby island outside Colon, Isla Naranjo Abajo. Everything worked perfectly, so it would seem that our wiring and charging issues have been resolved. We are so thankful! Right now we'll rest a bit, straighten up, and then clean the boat bottom which is really fouled with barnacles. Tomorrow, if conditions improve, we'll move to Portobello or Linton. Meanwhile, it's good to be back at anchor and gently rocking as we listen to the wind blowing (20-22 knots) and watch the white caps roll by.

3-12-09 It's good to be king....

What a painful exercise this has been. We're charging OK, and the Xantrex Link 2000R seems to be acting as it should. To summarize, this is what we've changed out: 4 fuses (3 were 2A, 1 was 10A) and holders; 3 alternators repaired (we're now running on the Balmar 70A again); 1 50MV 500A alternator shunt; a bunch of wire terminal ends; and 2 battery switches. All wire terminals to switches, fuse holders, terminal boards and grounds have been cleaned, a good idea in any case. I think most of this is directly attibutable to our exhaust leak of November, which sprayed salt water over the back of the switches and fuses, etc. It's also taken two trips to Panama City for alternator repairs and an unknown amount of patience and aggravation. We're now on much more intimate terms with our alternator and charging system, another good idea. So, it's been quite the learning experience. A few tips from fellow cruisers, and a lot of deductive reasoning and thought involved. There were moments of panic, depression and a feeling of helplessness (conflicting test results when following the algorithms found in various texts for alternator/regulator faults) when nothing seemed to be helping or working correctly, but perseverance (some might call it stubbornness) won the day. As Tom Petty sang, "It's good to be king....," even, or especially, if it's only of your engine room. We also made another trip to Panama yesterday to pick up our Acer laptop, which had its motherboard replaced under warranty repair. Only 8 months old and needing a new motherboard...hmmm. And it still won't turn on without it being plugged in. But we're not willing to bring it back to repair shop at this time.... At this point, we're back to waiting for a weather window to head to the San Blas. Winds and seas have been high for several weeks, and it seems the only boats which have left have gone to transit the canal. The rest of us have waited here in Shelter Bay Marina for better conditions.

3/3/09 We're fixed and ready to go - NOT

3/5 More gremlins showed up---now our volt meter pegs out at 16v ---sorting things out again....the troubleshooting continues.....

3/3 Here's the update. Hugo, a Brazilian from the catamaran Beduina, stopped by this afternoon to help me sort out all the electrical gremlins. He's an electrical engineer, and knows his stuff. Before his arrival, I had found a bad battery selector switch (remember, we had that exhaust hose leak in November, and it sprayed all over the wiring of all three battery selector switches, as well as everything else within range). So, we found three bad battery selector switches, two bad fuse holders and fuses, a bit of "confused" wiring, as well as those bad alternators. Expecting trouble, I had bought two new battery selector switches when we were in Florida in December (why didn't I buy three?) and a few new fuse holders. Two of our alternators went off to an alternator repair shop in Panama our friends have used and highly recommended. We'll get the story on them in a day or two, but I'd expect blown diodes. Our charging system and monitor are now working properly, so we expect to depart on the next weather window. Talk about weather, it's blowing like stink. The squalls have rolled through here with little to no notice, and the gusts have been impressive. With the closing of the Panama Canal Yacht Club, this marina is full to the max, and it's quite an international flavor of cruisers here. Lots of kids (I think I counted 15 in the pool yesterday!) also. We've met some really nice folks, and look forward to seeing some of them "down the road."