When I was 18 years old, the Eagles released their hit single, “Hotel California.” The lyrics close with the lines, “You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave!” That California hotel has nothing on Panama. When we first entered the country in the beginning of October, we never imagined that we would still be sitting in Shelter Bay Marina in March. No matter how many times we “check out,” we can seemingly never leave.
I’m happy to report that $31,000.00 and 5 months later, we have completed most of the repair work from the lightning strike in San Blas. We now have completely new and functioning Garmin Electronics (including chart plotter, radar, autopilot, depth and wind transducer, displays, and AIS). We have a new VHF with remote in the helm station. We have all new engine starting batteries. We have a new charger/inverter. We have a new watermaker display and control board. We have a new engine alternator. We have a new generator fuel pump, raw water pressure switch, relays, toggle switches, and starter. We have a new PCB (printed circuit board) at our master electronics control panel. We have a new navigation lights, both bow and stern. I probably left something else out of the list, as well. This does not count the non-lightning strike related repairs done, such as the $3000.00 or so spent on our new genoa furler.
I’m sad to report that we’re not yet finished! Another PCB at our master electronics control panel needs replacing. At this time, our navigation lights are malfunctioning because of the problem with the board. The control PCB and one other part needs replaced on our generator. We also have to troubleshoot and fix a problem with some of our outlets. I have to replace our deck flood lamp bulb. And, lastly, there is a problem with one of the engine ignition switches. Whew!
We hauled the boat out on Friday in order to assess the hull for lightning damage. Thankfully, we found no evidence of any. Julio, the local surveyor hired by the insurance company, was here to do a (semi)final inspection to make sure all has been repaired satisfactorily. Instead of leaving immediately to head northward toward the states, we had decided to wait on the rest of the repairs to be completed here. But… we also decided to celebrate the work which had been accomplished by heading out to the San Blas Islands again for a week. (It’s the dry season here now, which means there is almost no lightning!). Unfortunately, when we splashed back into the water and was motoring back to the slip, we noticed no raw water exhaust from our starboard engine. Assuming, correctly, that it was the impeller, I grabbed my tools and the replacement impeller, hopped down into the engine compartment and proceeded to change the impeller. As suspected, the impeller was completely chewed up. Not a single blade on the rubber wheel was present. When I reached my hand into the raw water pump to find the broken blades, I knew something was wrong when I felt a sharp prick and noticed my finger was bleeding. Our raw water pump had corroded and presented sharp metal prongs to the impeller and my finger, inflicting damage on both. So much for the San Blas Islands! So much for leaving Shelter Bay! It doesn’t seem to matter how often we “check out,” we never seem able to leave!
Having said all that, I am, surprisingly, not too depressed. I’m actually thankful that I discovered the raw water pump problems before we started out for a significant passage back toward the states. I’m now trying to locate two raw water pumps (Yes, two. The other was also corroded.) to install on the engines, hopefully prior to our next return to the states. We just hope and pray that we don’t discover another significant problem when we are ready to leave in April.
In the meantime, Cindy and I have been loving our daily jungle walks. We are blessed to have such an amazing place to get a little exercise and hang out with God’s crazy creatures. We see lots of birds and monkeys with a smattering of other critters mixed in. We’ll continue to enjoy the Panamanian jungle for two more weeks, at which time we’ll fly back to the U.S. for work and visiting. Enjoy the wildlife photos!