Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Post Canal Blues / La Playita

[Kyle]After a late finish to our canal transit, try as we might, we couldn’t get out of bed the following morning before 10:00 (possibly much later!). We tidied up the boat and then went about addressing our mechanical problems. The port transmission was easy. The little wire through the pin that connects the cable and the shift arm on the transmission broke. I replaced it with a beefier one and it’s now back in commission.

{Maryanne: The engine problems had been so frustrating and embarrassing..., not to mention potentially very dangerous. Luckily everything had worked (with one work around or another) when we needed it to, but we like and need a reliable boat - we needed to address this and get to the bottom of everything that wasn't working so well!}

The starting problem was a little more vexing. We got out the electrical tester and slowly started eliminating one cause or the other. During a break in the process, I discovered that our starboard shower/bilge pump was no longer working either. I’d have to deal with that later.

Eventually, we determined that the problem was that our starting battery was just dead. Not discharged, dead. The start button repair was not related. It was just a confusing coincidence. Our final confirmation came when I hooked up our spare new bilge pump (which Maryanne insisted I carry home in my luggage) to the battery terminals directly and nothing happened except the voltage plummeted from 12.9V to 2V. {Maryanne: This had us perplexed since the voltage was reading well on the start battery so it wasn't 'dead' in the traditional sense, it was just the voltage was not really available as soon as any load was put on the battery - after eliminating shorts, and poor connections and everything else we could think of, we were left with it MUST be the battery itself that was at fault - despite working on our return to Panama and putting the boat back in the water, that must have been pretty much it's last breath. It was old, and it had spent the winter in the baking sun doing nothing at all.... I guess it was time.}

It was good to know what the problem was, but batteries are heavy and that one is in the back. Extracting it would be on tomorrow’s list. I replaced the new bilge pump, which for some reason had complication after complication that required I dig out more parts and more tools. We were back in the yard again. Since I was already working, I fitted a non-return valve into the port engine bilge discharge line too. When we were done, it was dark, I was exhausted and all I wanted was a shower.

The following morning we woke up naturally just before sunrise. After coffee and breakfast, I extracted the start battery from its home while Maryanne dropped the dinghy. We then rowed the thing to shore to see what we could figure out.

We got lucky. There’s a chandler right next to the dinghy dock, and they had batteries in stock. We paid for it, but batteries are heavy. I was in no mood to take a cab all of the way to the Battery District to save $20, or $50. This way, we were able to have them hold our purchase until we got back, so we could take a little walk around.

La Playita lies at the end of a long causeway that runs alongside the entrance channel to the Miraflores Locks and connects with the mainland. Apart from a couple of spots where they’re trying to cater to the Infinity crowd, the place seems pretty nice. The dinghy dock is reasonable, especially after having been in Shelter Bay. There are a few affordable restaurants and a mini mart where you can get wifi if you spend $3. The tables outside seem to be the sailor’s hangout. We were hungry, so we had a nice meal at a Colombian restaurant (also with wifi!) then returned for our battery.

Scenes around our new home...

After doing the morning’s battery extraction procedure in reverse, we found that it cracked the problem. Begonia is a fully functioning boat again.

No comments: