BACK ON THE HARD

I had to make a hard decision to abandon my plans to continue to Panama after my auto tiller died. There are no repair or purchase options on the island and shipment of a new one from the states would take a couple weeks. That would put me further into the hurricane season.

I has another very exhausting 24 hours of hand steering to get back to Guatemala and had the boat hauled. It’ll remain there for the rest of the year. I could have left it in the water, but it costs about the same to have it out.

It’s discouraging, but there was no way I could continue without an auto tiller. I did do some steering by using the sails tied to the tiller and using a length of surgical tubing to balance the force. That worked well with the wind forward of the beam or slightly beyond that, but I couldn’t get it work downwind.  I have studied methods and watched videos, but I lacked a downwind pole. I had tried to find one in Guatemala, but was unsuccessful.

 

I’m back in Costa Rica and have time to make decisions about how to continue.

I had some photos from Utila and from the boat yard, but I lost them when I had to reset my new phone to unblock it from the AT&T network.

 

 

THE RIDE FROM HELL

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Isla Utila, Honduras

That’s the phrase that kept running through my mind when I arrived to Utila. It’s how my fellow Old Krank Bicycle Club member Carter MacEntyre (possibly misspelled) described every long distance ride he completed. This despite being a strong rider and riding several hundred miles per month.

 

I left Livingston, Guatemala on Monday, June 19, at about noon. There was a little wind, so I decided to sail out. There is a sand bank across the river entrance that limits the depth to 5 feet. My boat draws 4 feet, so no problem. Deeper draft vessels have to time the tide to enter and exit.

I was not mid-channel, but also not that close to shore when I went aground. Locals watch for this and have built a good business around it. A few minutes later and $50 lighter, I was on my way.

The first few hours were non-eventful. As the sun set, I was motor sailing due to light winds. I could see lightning in the distance, but was dry for the time being.

A sudden, strong squall with heavy rain forced me to lower the sails. I can roll the head sail from the cockpit, but have to go to the mast to drop the main. I wear a harness with 2 tethers when I leave the cockpit. The longer one attaches to Jack (safety) lines on deck and the short one attaches to the mast or rigging to keep me close to my work. After that, I was very wet and the auto tiller was steering while I went below to dry off.

I stayed below while the boat motored along. I could stay dry and take a look around while standing on the top step of the gangway. The combination of the wind and seas became too much for the auto tiller to steer. So I turned it off, shut off the engine and drifted. This tactic is called “lying ahull.” If I had some sail up, I could have “hove to”, but I wasn’t in the mood to do that.

There was nothing around us and the water was plenty deep. So, it was a safe place to just float around. It was also comfortable enough down below. It was too dark to see the waves and I don’t have a wind instrument. I don’t know how hard the wind was blowing, but my wind generator sounded like a small plane taking off. It normally hardly turns at all.

After 30 – 60 minutes, things settled down and I started the engine and carried on. I stayed below and all was well. Maybe an hour later, the rain and wind increased again and the auto tiller was showing signs of displeasure. When I would push a button, rather than the normal “Beep”, it would say, “Meh.” Then it just failed completely.

I didn’t note the time, but think it was before midnight. That meant that I had to hand steer the rest of the way. I wasted about an hour trying to get a couple bundgy cords to steer. I knew that would work, and it didn’t. So it was on the tiller to hand steer. It is very difficult to steer to the compass. There were no visible landmarks, so I had to follow the compass. Taking my eyes off of it for more that a few seconds would take me off course. That is very tiring. I would stop periodically and go below for a break while floating in neutral.

When the sun finally rose, I could at least see a point on the mainland. That made it much easier to steer. However, my plot charter told me I still had about 7 hours to reach my destination. I thought that I would never get there. But, of course, I did eventually. I anchored and called the port captain on the VHF radio.

I thought about asking if I could come in the next day, but I remembered when I cleared in as crew with Paul Sommers on “Dragons Wing.” Well. First, I arrived when he was out to lunch, so I stumbled off to have some myself. Then I looked for a cell phone SIM card to buy internet. That wasn’t easy, but got done.

Checking in took a lot longer than I thought it would. It was the same person, but the rules must have changed. He had a computer and I don’t remember that he did before. He spent a lot of time being careful with the forms and reading them over and over. He even had me take him to the boat to get photos. I thought he take a photo of the Hull number, or at least check it. He took a photo of the stern with the name and hailing port. When we returned to his office, he double checked everything and then told me to return the next morning.

Then, it was immigration. That didn’t take too long. They did have an electronic finger print machine that I think was new. He also printed my passport stamp with a computer printer rather that a manual stamp. The entry fee was $3.00.

This was THE RIDE FROM HELL!

I returned to the port captain’s office today and got my paperwork. He didn’t ask for any money and I didn’t offer any.

I just started to think about what I’m going to do about the auto tiller. This is a small island and I can’t just pop into a marine store. My next destination is 4 or 5 days at sea. I can’t hand steer that.

I’ll post some more about the island later. This is a big diving location. I’m not into that, but I’m checking into snorkeling with whale sharks. I’m also going to rent a Quad and ride around. There a very few roads and they are full of cycles and ATV’s.

This link will take you to map with my location.

https://iridium.com/floating/map?lat=16.095583&lon=-086.896683

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The auto tiller

ROAD TRIP

It sure is taking longer to get out of here than I ever would have guessed. I spent a couple nights on the lake to shake out some of the systems. I had a leaky shaft seal and engine fuel problem. Those got fixed and then I had a water pump leak. The pump needs a couple $11 seals. These are not available here, of course. So, while I wait for them to come from the U.S., I took a couple days to visit Takal.

Takal is the site of an ancient Maya city. There are miles of trails and various pyramids and other ruins. You can search for more information, I’m just going to post a few pictures. There are many clearly marked trails through the jungle.  I saw a lot of birds, monkeys, and coatis.

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Restoration is a slow process. Here is a cycle being used as a cable lift to haul stone and cement to one of the temples.

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I saw a lot of birds. I wasn’t able to get good photos. Here is one very colorful kind of turkey that I could approach.

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My pump seals arrive Wednesday. I may be on my way to Belize soon. I hate to jinx it by thinking that this is the last thing I have to fix.

Splash

That was the sound of my boat getting back in the water. It was a pretty exhausting 3 weeks, but thanks to Tim, Wyatt, and Carson; I’m looking good. At least, the boat is looking good. I’m still old and not that easy on the eyes.

A little magic happened during the time in the yard. The boat MAGICO left the water, but the sailing vessel DABOTE returned. I renamed the boat. That’s supposed to be bad luck, but I don’t believe in such things (knock wood). I applied for entry into Guatemala with the new name and my new documents. The cruising permit under the old name expired and I wasn’t going to pay the fine to extend it. So, like magic, MAGICO just disappeared.

I’ll be moving up river in a couple days to have some more work done.

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The interior is not as squared away, but will be in a feew days.

Progress on the Hard

The day after  posting those ugly photos, I thought that i would make a quick post on the progress to date. I have had a lot of great help from the male members of the Foley family. They are self described “Overlanders.” The five of them have been traveling for 2 years and will have to move on before their vehicle permit expires.

Tim and his sons, Wyatt and Carson have been sanding and painting every day for over a week. The boat has 2 coats of bottom paint and 2 coats of epoxy primer on the hull. The top side painting preparation is very labor intensive. The finish coats will be high gloss polyurethane and will show any brush strokes or scratches. So it’s been sanding and filling and sanding for days.

Here is what it looks like now. I have another day of fine detailing before the first finish coat

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L-R Carson, Tim, Wyatt.

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You can read more about the Foley family at http://www.clunkmonkey.com.

Malia and Kaila Foley are not pictured here but you can read about them at their site. The entire family has been a pleasure to meet and spend time with and they have really come through on the labor side. I’m going to miss them and not just for the labor.

 

On The Hard

On the Hard – the way boaters describe their boats when they are out of the water for maintenance.

It’s been a while since my last post. Sometimes I wonder if Blogging is a little too much like the people who post endless photos of their meals on Facebook and my posts are just not that interesting. In the end, I decided to keep going.

Since my last post,  I spent a couple weeks with my brother in Florida. I bought a lot of things that are not available here or are very much more expensive.

My transmission has been rebuilt and I have a functional 16 HP Perkins diesel engine. I installed a new fuel filter and had my fuel tanks cleaned.

My new VHF radio outputs a GPS signal that my laptop can read and I have a navigation program that is similar to GPS systems on land. Instead of maps, it displays nautical charts that give you information like boat speed, course, water depth, buoys, and navigation lights.

I have a satellite phone for making calls at sea.

I installed a new propane stove and also bought a portable refrigerator that will be permanently installed.

Now it’s time for things that can only be done on the hard. The main items to be done are to install 2 new sea cocks for a new head (like a toilet, but more moody) and paint the bottom with anti-fouling paint. The paint minimizes marine growth on the hull which will really slow you down and may eventually damage the hull.

Here are 3 “Before” photos.

 

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I Just Moved Aboard

Well, I’m in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. I arrived on Nov. 15 and first went to the marina on the 16th.

The boat was closed up for a long time, so it needed a good airing and cleaning. I stayed in a hotel 3 nights while I worked on cleaning and finding where everything was aboard.

Above decks it was gray/green. After a lot of elbow grease and Clorox, it is white again. It still needs painting, but I knew that. At least it doesn’t look totally unloved.

I talked to Casey a couple times. He’s the one with the Shannon and I can still stay in his cabin and he will help me relocate a lot of good equipment from it. I’m taking the anchor windlass, some winches, and the roller furling.  For now I am in a nice marina for $125 per month. I met a lot of nice people here from all over the world.

I started the engine today (a 16 HP Perkins diesel). It started fine. I know  the shift cable is disconnected and that’s on the to do list.

The boat could sail away now, but I want to add a few things.

I had a bit of an adventure today. I couldn’t find pillows and sheets in Rio Dulce so I took a shared minivan to a nearby town. You can flag these down on the road and they are very inexpensive. What I didn’t know is that they pack them like a clown car. They also drive like their hair is on fire.

I arrived alive and got my pillows and sheets and had a nice lunch. Then I flagged down a van. I was the last aboard. I ended up sitting on a narrow piece of metal behind the front passenger seat. It was more of a foot rest than a place to sit. My feet were on the entry step and there were too many people to close the door. I did have a handhold. My feet shared the step with the young guy who took the money and handled the seating and baggage. He was leaning out the open door as we raced down the road and would climb out and go on top where the baggage was as we approached a stop, He did this while the van was at full speed and he came back down after the van had left the stop.

I’m sure that I’ll never do anything that dangerous at sea.

I’ll post again soon and maybe add a few photos. The photo on the main page of this blog is the Rio Dulce from the center of the bridge.

Plan B

It’s been a long time since my last post. To keep this short and simple, there were problems with the Shannon documents that made a legal transfer impossible. After trying for several months, I gave up and went back to the Cape Dory 28. The seller and I have a deal and the survey is being done. I expect to close this deal soon and will be back posting about my preparations.

My plans are to leave Guatemala for Belize in December or January. From there I will head north to Isla de Mujeres, Mexico.  Beyond that, I’m thinking Columbia, the San Blas Islands of Panama, and ending in Bocas de Toro, Panama.

Plans, of course, are subject to change.