Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Trip from Hell

Here is a summary of our trip back to Panama. It was one of the few times we had a schedule to meet. Only in an emergency will we do this again. Life is too short!

Day 1 Oil filter fails and the low pressure alarm goes off. I was able to replace the oil filter and stop the leak but only after two tries--ended up with about two quarts of oil in engine sump to clean up. Just did that yesterday. Messy job but learned bleach removes those stains. P.S. Helen was dodging without power the two reefs as I worked.

Day 2 Coming into Guanaja's reef our engine lost power and was starving for fuel--could not run over 1000 rpms, not good for beating into strong head winds and current. We anchored right after we were safe behind the reef, changed the filter and it seemed to help, also some water in fuel. (Same problem 4 days later). Looked at filter and it was clean with no water. I have no idea what is up. Oh yeah, I also noticed the line to reef the jib was hanging overboard so I dove and unwrapped it from the transducers. While under I noticed the drive line was 3/4 of an inch sucked in--later for that problem...and of course then the holding tank that needed to be drained didn't work--tried to fix it but hand dumped over the side what I could get at. Literally what a shitty day.

Days 3 to 3.5 No matter how I tried we can't motorsail faster than 2.5 knots due to the current, head winds, and 5 to 6 ft seas. I tried to sail off wind and still no luck. We were burning about 1.5 gals an hour doing this and we were going to run out of fuel if this continues. Broke the boomvang off at the mast. Basically the housing, pulleys, and attachment bracket just blew up in many pieces—13 years of sun exposure and fatigue. Was able to jerry rig a single line boomvang that lasted the rest of the trip.

Days 4 to 4.5 wind came out of the north, northeast at about 25 + knots seas were only 5 to 6 because we were in the lee of the Banks. Could only sail at about 6 knots because we only had the mainsail so we decided we needed to try to get the jib up. I was able to finish the sewing of the jib in the cockpit while under way (It had ripped out earlier that month). Left the lee of the banks and the seas built to 8 to 10. No way were we getting the jib attached and up so we decided to make a quick stop at Providencia to have some calmer waters. The autopilot was having trouble maintaining course because of going downwind and large seas so the off course alarm was going off every 3- -6- seconds during Helen's watch. After about 20 seconds it would adjust to course so the alarm would stop only to start again. Got to Providencia, put the jib up in 20knts of wind but no seas, and took a needed 6hr nap before we left.

Day 5-6 Seas were down to 6 to 8, the wind was still 25 + but we were hauling ass and it felt great. Autopilot was still having some trouble but not as bad as the day before. We were getting into potentially big squalls and ship traffic so we started radar only to have it die in about 2hrs. Ended up being corroded connections but it still died about every 3 hrs or so. Helen said the head was backing up so I went to dump the holding tank. Turned it on and nothing happened. The outlet was clogged. I figured we had knocked the calcium off the walls during our rough passage and that it had blocked the outlet. Put a quart of muric acid in the tank and let it sit. 6hrs later I opened the valve which was clogged and shit flew all over the forward bilge and under the bed area. Not a good thing. Connected the macerator and it still didn't pump. Took the whole thing apart and all the blades in the pump were broken off. It took me 1 hr to find my spare impeller but I did have one. There are 4 bolts that hold the pump to the motor, three had rotted off and broke when I took it apart and this was my last backup macerator. I put it back together with silicone and one bolt--it worked sort of. It was leaking and sucking air so it took 20 minutes to drain the tank, but at least we didn't have to bucket and chuck it. for 36 hrs more.

Day 6++ The seas were 8 to 10 + but had a 6 to 8 second period so they looked huge but it wasn't all that uncomfortable. There were a few waves that were much bigger than 10ft and reminded me of the Northwest. We were having squalls all day long and got overrun by 4 or 5 with 2 that had winds of over 35. It was good practice to shorten sails before we were over run. The foot of the jib, which I had not resewn because it looked ok, ripped out along the seam of the sun cloth. It wasn't going to damage the sail but if I let it continue it would make a lot more work for me so we rolled in the jib. The wind was actually out of the north and a little west so it worked out ok. We still had 25+ winds so we could maintain about 6 to 7 knots with just the main all the way out. The last 10 hrs the wind shifted to due south and was 20 knts on our nose again. We were again motoring at about 5.5 knot into wind with a 8 to 10ft following sea ugh!!! We were going to be making our approach after dark. Not my best choice but I had not calculated the miles to and from Providencia so here we come. We checked into the morning net and asked for some waypoints to get us in the dark. Another cruiser sent us some that afternoon. They were great. The lights in Drago were weird and wild, similar to the run way lights approaching O”Hara airport we guessed. There were red and green entertwined because there were 4 or more bends in the path and no clear entering point. We shot a gap, lined up. and they worked. We anchored at 10pm, and slept soundly for the first time in a week.

The next day I went to check the engine and found that somewhere on our trip the 3/8" plate bracket holding my watermaker pump had broken off in the middle and the pump was laying loose on top of the engine. So much for pickling the membrane. I am going to try to find a piece of PVC tubing I can put the membrane in and pour solution over it for storage. Might work, but I will bring back a membrane as well.

Looking back there was nothing I could have done to prevent any of the problems, it was just one of those trip you want to get behind you. I could have done a better job at figuring mileage. I had just not figured it was 35 mile out of our way to go to Providencia. At least that was the difference from going straight from the Hobbies south to Bocas or going to Providencia then to Bocas.

Now we are here and almost have forgotten our HELL trip, it is time to go see Kiele for the first time. Cool!!!

Life is great! Except for all the stuff that broke the boat did great in those conditions. I still feel good about our boat and its abilities.


Crew of the Solstice said...

Glad to see you catching up on your blog. That passage sounds truly horrible. For what it's worth, we find that even calculating the mileage properly doesn't always help. We never know exactly what our average speed will be due to variations in wind and waves, so we've drifted around in the dark more than once because I didn't want to enter a strange harbor when I couldn't see. We're really looking forward to seeing you again this season in the Caribbean. It's been a long time.
-Shirlee and John

Lea Scotia said...

Holy crap, so to speak. Sounds like Jammin' weathered things just fine... I can pretty much picture everything that you wrote about - passages like that make arrival that much better!
Have fun!