Archive for February, 2009

Zephyrus’s Canal Transit

On Friday Doreen and our visitor PJ were line handlers on the sailboat Zephyrus as it made its transit of the Panama canal from the Pacific Ocean into the Caribbean Sea.

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Zephyrus untied from their buoy at the Balboa Yacht Club and moved into the channel where we met up with our advisor for the trip.  The advisor is an employee of the Canal Authority and is getting his early experience at transiting the canal with the smaller boats.  He is in radio contact with the canal officials,  the pilots that are on the large ships, and any other advisors on small boats.

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The transit really started after we passed under the Bridge of the Americas, which we had just passed under when I snapped this photo of Dan (Zephyrus‘ owner) and our advisor.

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We entered the first lock (the Mira Flores lock) behind this ship and tied off along side of another small boat that was itself tied to a tug.  Both boats are visible as they lined up to enter the lock in this photo.  The small insert shows the lock doors closing .  We were sandwiched then between the closed doors and the stern of the ship.

We were lifted thru two locks to the Las Flores lake where we had about an hour wait before we could transit the third “up lock”’ then we passed under the Centennial Bridge, into the Culebra cut and finally into Lake Gatun.  Most of the rest of the day we motored thru the lake to the upper end of the Gatun Locks.  Since a ship ahead of us had had difficulty pulling their anchor up, the lockage down was delayed just long enough that we were able to squeeze in front of a large car carrier for the trip down.  We tied off to the ship’s tug for the lockage with the big ship just off our stern.

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We exited the last lock into the Caribbean.  This photo is looking back into the lock as the ship that locked with us is just exiting the lock.  The visible tug is the friendly one that we locked down with, tied along side.

It was a dark moonless night as we dropped off the advisor in Colón and headed over to the Shelter Bay Marina where Zephyrus had nabbed a slip for a few days.  Frank from WindSong, one of the other line handlers, had been to this marina on other boats many times before; he was able to help guide us in – in the dark!  Since it was quite dark and late by the time we tied up, we could not find a taxi driver that would come and return we three line handlers to Balboa, so we all spent the night together on Zephyrus.

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The next morning we took a hike into the jungle that surrounds the marina. On the hike we saw and heard several troops of howler monkeys and ended up at a lovely beach directly on the Caribbean Sea.

Off to the “South Pacific” Party

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Last night we went out to dinner at Napoli’s – an fine old Italian restaurant in the Caledonia area of Panama City – with a large group of cruisers (30 people!) to celebrate Carina’s  pending departure to the South Pacific.  Leslie and Phil have been crossing paths with us for years since we were all in El Salvador together.  They are – finally! –  heading out to the South Pacific to continue their cruising.  We enjoyed several hours of great food and good conversation with some of the many friends that we have met since leaving Mexico.

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Here is a last photo of Leslie and Philip before they head out to the Perlas Islands to finish readying for the big jump into the South Pacific.

New Kayak

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Yesterday (Thursday) we went kayak shopping and managed to find a nice small light-weight kayak for Doreen.  The store promised to deliver it today, Friday.  We had other shopping to do before we returned to Lanikai – including purchasing new exhaust hose for the Kubota diesel still under repair and a trip to the nearby super grocery store.   We arrived back to Lanikai and no sooner had we emptied our bags when the phone rang: The kayak was on its way to us already!  We called a launch and hurried to the Yacht Club’s bohio to wait for the arrival of the kayak.  Several hours later the kayak finally arrived.  The truck had been stuck in traffic and, yes, they did call us several times to say that they really were coming but were stuck in traffic (normal here in Panama City).  We transported the kayak to Lanikai in the YC’s launch, but by then it was after 4PM so we just fixed some sandwiches and relaxed onboard for the evening.

This morning – after our walk – I readied the kayak for the water, but then I had to wait until the current to cut back to slack before dropping it overboard – around noon – and taking it for a nice paddle.  Bill helped me haul it up into its storage rack for the first time; it sure is a lot lighter than the old kayak.  I am sure going to enjoy using it, but first I have to get my arm strength back!!

Engine Repair Week

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Last week we rebuilt the little shelf that holds the Kubota’s water-lift muffler and on Saturday Bill got it all installed into the engine room where there is lots of space to work (!not!).  With that finished, this week he got started on getting the motor itself back together.  Yesterday, the piston went into the cylinder, the valves went into the head and the head went on the block.  Alas we could still hear air escaping from the exhaust valve when we spun the engine by hand.  So today he removed the head, re-lapped the exhaust valve until the seat looked “perfect” and finally got the  motor back together (with decent compression) and in back into the engine room bolted to its little spot.  The project is not completed yet as there is all the extraneous stuff to  attach to the motor including the water pumps to cool the engine, the starter motor, air filter, fuel filter and the alternator so it will be several more days before it is actually running but progress is occurring.

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Last Sunday we walked the causeway (5 kilometers) with Frank (WindSong) to meet up with Royce and Pam (RDreamZ) for lunch.  It was quite windy with occasional clouds blocking the hot sun so it was not a bad walk.

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We ate at Pomodoro’s Italian Restaurant and the food was quite good, although a little slow in coming.  No problem as Royce had brought along his new fancy iPod that even connects to the internet to surf or receive mail – naturally we all had to play with that!    The food was very good and the waiter was good at keeping our water glasses full as we rehydrated from the walk.  To top off the meal, we all had ice cream at the nearby Gelarti’s and then the three of us walked back to the Balboa YC (another 5 kilometers!).  Sorry that Pam and Royce have their boat anchored at that end of the causeway and didn’t get to enjoy the 10k walk!

Back in Panama City

We have now been back on Lanikai two weeks.  The last day of the cruise (Saturday) was spent on-board traveling all the way from the ABC islands back to Colón, Panama.  In Colón we were  met by friends – two of whom were boarding the ship to take the cruise the week after we did.  Frank and Shirley (of WindSong) did the honors of driving us back across the isthmus to the Panama City on the Pacific side and to Lanikai.

It took us a whole week to get our act together and to figure out where we were on our projects; and this last week Bill has gotten going again on the rebuild of the tiny Kubota engine.  Its parts and pieces have been scattered throughout Lanikai for almost two months now.  Broken pieces have been taken to a shop for repair and now Bill has to figure out how to attack all the problems in a systematic way.  This little engine is used to turn a large alternator to top off the batteries when the sun does not do the job.  With the two extra solar panels that we installed in December, the batteries now top up each day (usually in the early afternoon) so getting the Kubota back into working order is much less pressing than it was back in early November.  But it certainly will be nice to get all the parts and pieces back into one spot in the engine room when it is repaired, get all the tools put away, and to reclaim the nav table for general use.

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Here is a photo of Bill examining what is left of the little Kubota after he removed all the parts that he could.