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May 9, 2013
CATALYST LOG: FINAL EPISODE
Dear Friends and Family,
More than a week has passed since we arrived home at our dock.
It has taken me awhile to get to writing this. That may be an indication that we are getting back in to the swing of being land lubbers quickly as we have hit the ground running on getting back in our our land based life. Before I get in to that, let me recap the trip.
It was disappointing that we lost our ability to send e-mail while en route to Florida but luckily, we didn’t lose our ability to use the radio to contact people directly. When the modem went out on us, Rob contacted a HAM radio net that is on line about 20 hours a day each day. These HAM operators from all over the country are happy to do what they can to help. The one we contacted made a phone call to our daughter Lisa to let her know that the reason we were not in contact was a malfunction on the radio and not a problem with the boat or us. Craig was able to publish that as well so hopefully no one worried when our little balloons showing our progress didn’t show up.
Over all, the trip went well. The draw back, if you want to call it that, was that we actually made much better time than anticipated and as we made our turn more easterly, the winds had not clocked around as fully to the south east as they were projected to do if we had been about 12 hours later. But the winds died down as projected so when we did get too close to the wind to sail, and started the engines, we were not in too uncomfortable wave conditions to manage it. All in all, it was a great weather widow and we were glad we took it.
We did about the last 24 hours with the sails down and strictly motoring. Of course we would have preferred to sail in but with changing of direction necessary, we knew that motoring was likely. We were able to sail the other 5 days of the journey which was really wonderful.
We had several days of stronger waves but over all, it was an easy trip. It is not something that is that hard to do but it is not the fun part of the cruising life style for either one of us. Over all, the boat performed very well this year. Rob will go in to more detail on that in his final report.
I did want to share a picture of the birds that joined us to rest along their way. Here is one of them.
I also wanted to share the two Panama flag we have. The top one is for the country of Panama and the one under it is for Kuna Yala. They also have a different flag from the revolution that you can also use. What is interesting about the Kuna flag is that it looks like it has a swastika on it. Actually, this one is backwards and is a symbol that had meaning long before it became associated with Hitler. It has no connection to that time and does not denote hatred and genocide. It still makes me a little uncomfortable to fly it though.
When we left Panama, we took down all flags because we didn’t want them beat up. We arrived about sundown on Monday the 30th of April at the entrance to Charlotte Harbor and anchored at our favorite anchorage there called Pelican Bay off the island of Cayo Casta. It was very peaceful there that night. The boat didn’t move at all. HOW WONDERFUL! A young couple saw us arrive and set anchor and as they were going around the anchorage on their dinghy, they asked us where we had come in from. You can imagine how surprised they were to hear us say Panama! It was cool to tell them that though! We enjoyed sleeping at the same time that night. For a week, we had one of us sleeping and one on watch.
The next morning, I raised our boating club burgee
to fly under that flag on our way back home.
Just before coming in to the canal system in our community, we saw some very strong rain.
With our radar, we could see that it was localized and moving away from us so we slowed down a bit and by the time we were in the canal system, it had just passed us by. Luckily, we had not really been through anything like that during our whole trip and were glad we didn’t have to make land fall in the pouring rain.
Because no one knew for sure when we were arriving, there was no welcome committee but our house sitters took care of that before they left our house.
They left the house in perfect order and always leave little things around for us to find. It makes coming home a treasure hunt!
We made it in before lunch. I had lots of left over food so no problem eating. We did go out and get some fresh things later though. We have had no problems adjusting to being back on solid ground, not even dizziness after being bounced around for several days. I think the sleep the night before helped with that.
We went to visit our grandchildren the next day and it was wonderful to see them and catch up on the changes in their place and their lives. They will come join us at our place for Mother’s Day. They have not seen the boat for 2 ½ years so they will probably want to check that out. Rob is looking forward to letting the older kids drive the dinghy.
Lisa is doing well and the baby is due on June 2nd. Less than a month to go. It is nice for us to know we are back in time and also to get our selves sorted out before the blessed event.
Just the 7th, we had a great niece born. Her name is Bonnie Evelyn named after her grandmother and great grandmother, my mom. Both outstanding women so the child has some real support in her growing up. Our little one will be Melissa Jane and she will join a family that is already very full of love. You can see them here.
You can see where we will be spending a lot of our future time.
We look forward to a trip to Nebraska for our yearly family reunion over the 4th of July when we will celebrate my Dad’s 101st birthday. Last year he got a lot of cards that said 100 on it, I am not sure how many they make with 101! He is in great shape and we don’t see an end to these birthdays any time soon. He has already announced that 125 sounds like a ripe old age and I tell him that he is limiting himself with that statement.
We have a lot of things in mind to do from here that involve travel but we will be keeping the boat for awhile longer and enjoying local cruising and going a little further afield some of the time. I will let you know if we do another blog if we do an extended trip again. We are looking forward to working on our “What’s next list.” Right now though, what is next is to stay around and enjoy our friends and family right here in our corner of paradise.
Thank you for coming along on the journey with us. It has enhanced our experience and I hope it has been something that has enhanced your knowledge some of the time too. We only just scratched the surface on the places we visited which is the frustrating part of life. We only begin to glimpse what is there and then we move on. Still, it was a glimpse we would not have had otherwise and we are very pleased with the years we have been doing this.
Now you can read Rob’s final words on this trip.
As Sue said, the boat and all its systems performed well this year. Here’s a complete list of the problems and remedies.
Freezer door had started to come apart last year. We paid a shipwright in Bocas to repair it over the Summer. Mainly cleaning up, then gluing and screwing parts back together.
RayMarine depth sounder went out as soon as we left the dock in Bocas. We used a lead line on the bow, and a hand held depth sounder (looks like a flashlight) on the back steps to confirm depths before anchoring. Charts were very accurate for sailing between anchorages. A month later Sue’s sister and her husband brought down a new depth sounder display and transducer. I replaced the display, and everything worked. Ten years earlier I had bought the hand held sounder, and was starting to wonder if it was worth it. After this experience, I was very happy to have it on board.
We have lots of solar panels. In fact so many, that as long as the Sun shines, we don’t need to run an engine. The solar panels are controlled by a Xantrex brand voltage controller that’s in a closet. The controller has a remote monitoring display panel that is by the navigation table. I thought the controller had gone bad, and replaced it with a spare. Then that one went bad. I had a second spare, since we are so dependent on solar. That one also showed error conditions. I eventually unplugged the remote monitoring panel, and after that everything worked OK. I’m glad I didn’t throw my “bad” controllers away!
The freezer/fridge stopped cooling. You can imagine what a disaster it would be to loose all our cold and frozen food. I traced the problem to the electronic thermostat, and then to a wire that had gotten pinched when the door was repaired by the shipwright last Summer. I ended up duplicating the work we had paid for.
Our 13 year old microwave stopped working before we left the dock at Bocas. We traveled about 150 miles by bus to buy a new one, as well as groceries. The new microwave worked for 2 minutes and stopped. We were able to ship the defective new one back and get a second new one. The only problem is it doesn’t fit in its cubbyhole hole properly, and all the labels are in Spanish. We’ll get a new one that fits in the cubbyhole hole and speaks English, and donate the Spanish speaking one to someone who it can speak to.
The boat’s fresh water pump accumulator tank bit the dust, primarily because of old age. The rubber bladder apparently sprung a leak. To get a boat specific brand from stateside would have cost $140 plus international freight. I found one in a Panama hardware store for $20 and can’t tell the difference. Because of the accumulator tank going out, the pump cycled whenever we ran the water. This caused the pressure switch to burn out. I replaced the switch with a spare.
I replaced our old, dim, LED running lights with new LED lights. I did this in anticipation of the trip home. They may advertise the lights last for 50,000 hours, but they go dim after several hundred hours.
On the way home, one of the mainsail’s brass slugs that attach it to mast broke. The sail continued to work well, but with increased load on the remaining dozen or so slugs as well as the mast track. I could have fixed it underway with a spare slug,but didn’t want to take the sail off the boom to do it while the boat was underway and rocking. Had it happened our first day out of Panama I probably would have repaired it. However, knowing that we would be motoring within the next 24 hours, chose to fix it when we got home.
Due to some repairs in Guatemala last year, the line cutters didn’t exactly line up properly on one of the propeller shafts. I didn’t think it was that big of a problem until I examined the cutters the beginning of this year. Because of friction in the cutters, parts of them over heated and are melted, and will have to be replaced if I decide to keep them. So for this year I took the damaged cutters off, and everything else has been OK.
Our head (toilet) is electric, which means you press a button and all your problems go away. At least that’s what’s supposed to happen. It seems the incoming water line is loosing its prime, and not getting adequate water to the toilet to allow it to flush properly. This has been a developing problem and only this year became serious enough for us to be concerned about. I suspect it’s an old joker valve in the vented loop that has lost its pliancy. I’ll order a new one and see what happens. Otherwise, it’s a loose hose connection or cracked hose somewhere along the line. We worked around this problem by holding a finger over the vented loop’s joker valve area while pressing the flush button. This created more vacuum so the pump would prime properly. The other option would have been to use the other head on board.
I had to modify some electrical connections on the water maker. No big deal.
As Sue mentioned, about three days before getting home, we lost our email capability. A fuse had blown deep inside our Icom 802 radio when the wires connecting it to either the modem or the computer apparently shorted out. I replaced the fuse once, and it immediately blew again. At that point, rather than tempt fate, and maybe loose the use of the radio entirely, I decided to unhook the modem and computer from the radio, and just use it as a plain radio with a microphone for the last three days of the trip. Other than that glitch, we had one of the strongest signals on the Western Caribbean the entire year.
In addition to the above, I replaced one fan belt, one head impeller, and performed scheduled oil and fuel filters maintenance.
I have written too long already, but here are some figures that may be of interest to some people.
We had a very good sail on the way home. Over 5 days, pretty much strictly sailing (not motor sailing) we made these miles in 24 hour consecutive time periods. 150 miles, 158 miles, 175 miles, 159 miles, 173 miles. Most of these were with some help from favorable currents, though. I would guess the currents were from .5 to 1.5 knots. To a large extent we were in these favorable currents because of Chris Parker, a weather forecaster that we would speak with every morning. He would give us recommendations of where the currents were most favorable. This entire year has been the best year of sailing we have ever had.
Total miles traveled this year were 1,969. 1,262 of them were the trip back to Florida. Port engine was run 138 hours, Starboard engine 118 hours. About 30% of these hours was with both engines running. The other times we ran on only one engine, which is what we prefer to do, except in rougher seas. The generator was used for 119 hours. This is high because we had lots of cloudy days, so ran the generator to keep the batteries up to run the water maker. Water maker hours were 209, which means we used about 2000 gallons of water over six months. For a cruising boat, this is high. However, many homes in the US use this amount is a month or two.
Since our first longer cruise to Key West with our boating club in 2001 we have cruised just over 20,000 nautical miles on long distance trips. There have been lots of shorter trips through the years, but I did not keep track of mileage. For reference, a trip around the World in a cruising boat would be about 24,000 nautical miles.
I still have all my fingers, and can honestly say I never had to put on my really grubby clothes to do a dirty job, because there just wasn’t that much to be done. The boat did great!
One more comment from the Admiral. I am so proud of how Rob has come to understand all the various components on the boat and has made sure we had spares and could diagnose and repair almost everything. This has been a learning process since we have had the boat but it is so comforting to me to have someone aboard who can make our cruising life self sufficient. Only boaters realize how often things can go wrong on a boat. It is this way for all boats with multiple systems and if you can’t take care of things yourself, you are less safe, more inconvenienced, and have a lot less money left in your wallet.
We also need to give thanks to our son-in-law Craig, our blog master. With internet connections that we had, even if I knew how to do it, we could not have gotten the information on to the internet and certainly, no pictures. Craig is a very busy man and I know he spent some late nights getting things out. I didn’t always make it easy on him either. He has enhanced your experience and our memories!