Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Pacific Crossing Attempt Round Two

A month has vanished already since our u-turn escapade two days into the Pacific (see previous post for more details).
Time-wise, we could've been potentially almost nearing the Marquesas..or not. It was a good show of  seamanship on Dave's part to make the call and return to sort out the issues.
There's been tough times, mentally and emotionally, anchored back in Las Brisas, Panama city.
We've had a decent amount of intense thunderstorms...

 Lightening hit a neighbours' boat, taking out some of his electrical gear, another bolt appeared to hit the water between us and our friends, but thankfully no damage. 

Background hill seems small compared
to massively high cloud! (Salem paddling in

The distant booms of thunder, sounds like cannons firing. As it closes in on us, it sounds more like an ear piercing, drawn out crack like the skies are ripping apart.  

I used to enjoy thunderstorms back in NZ, and I'm more at ease with them here now, having endured a good few months of Panama's specialty. But, there's still the odd one that makes me jump, as it tries to stir up the frazzled nerves! 

Perhaps they have actually assissted in motivating us to keep pushing forward, in pursuit of the Pacific crossing.  An edgy reminder not to get too comfy here.

Quick pic through the bus window!

Then there was the week of the cadaver, when we thought we were watching a mooring buoy floating toward us. As it neared, a local panga with some officials motored around it, took lots of photos, wouldn't touch it, made phone calls and left again.  The grim realisation struck us, this was the body of a dead man heading right for our boat.  He floated right around our bowsprit and almost up to our boarding ladder on the other side before moving on out of the anchorage.  The boys were down below at the time but were aware of our conversation.

Navy spent a good hour trying to figure out how to
manoeuvre cadaver.

 They came up for a look at the beginning, when it was still a way off but we shooed them off downstairs before it neared and you could begin to make out body features and clothes.  It was a good excuse for them to go watch a movie! Our deepest condolences to the family, he appeared to be a local fisherman.
Lush neighborhood; taking a wander while waiting for my laundry.

Then there was the week of the night noises. They were quite loud and sporadic and only at night, of course.  We checked the anchor chain to see if it was hitting the hull - no.
Looked through the rigging if there were bats flying into it - no.    
Checked the water if objects, (preferably not cadavers!) were bumping into the hull - no.   Night after night we were getting woken by these noises, almost like someone was whacking the hull with a fish!  In tired desperation I emailed a few sailing friends to see if they could offer up any help, concerns of our aluminium hull in the forefront of my weary, over-imaginative, mind.  They were able to ease that notion with some good advice, and after checking off several suggestions, we concluded it must be fish (nocturnal ones at that)!!  Sure enough a few days later, talking to another cruiser, with a fiberglass boat, he also confirmed the same loud, under hull, spontaneous fish slap sounds - phew!  A couple of weeks since the noise has receeded somewhat and we're not getting woken as much.  Admittedly, Ula has grown a fairly decent green moustache along the waterline, so that probably doesn't help.

On our way to get supplies: Casco Viejo (old town) to

On the boat works side of things, one concern was with all the motoring we'd done (over 4 days), the batteries didn't appear to be charging.  Upon returning to civilisation, checking the alernator belt, proved to be looser than it should which wouldn't have helped for much charging to occur.  Running the engine after readjusting it however, still seemed to not improve the situation. Having a bit of a dig around, Dave discovered a wire had come loose from the alternator.
With that all fixed, the solar regulator appeared to stop working, meaning that all of a sudden our batteries were potentially under threat of becoming fried! A few days of going crazy with all electrical items on, at peak sunshine, throwing towels over the panels and researching the mindfield of information on solar regulators, we amazingly managed to purchase one close by.  Dave was in the process of trying to install it when he discovered a small random fuse near one of the battery banks had blown. Upon replacing that, our orignal regulator kicked back into gear!  Looks like we have ourselves a spare, and at least now we have a bit more of a vague idea about how that area works.

These buildings never cease to amaze us!

Dave has also pulled out all our ports (windows), scraped them back and re-bedded them. Upon inspection, some were ok, most not so much.
He altered the cockpit clears to better keep out the rain, installed a carbon filter for the head, installed a stop-valve and altered the plumbing so there's no chance of sea water popping back up the pipes and into our head (bathroom).
We also managed to source through a local contact, two more portable water containers, (originally used for molasses, we think!) adding another extra 150 litres or so.

Classic urban South American scene, reminds me of Brasil.

A top priority for the boys that we've just managed to sort out, we bought a harddrive for our friends to copy their library of movies, books and audio books, numbering into the thousands, I think.  This will definitely help eleviate the boredom issue for the long, slow passage.

Salem skurfing behind friend's dinghy. Glad to have them back for our last week.

Once again, having to stay put in one place has allowed us to meet some more great people, that has helped ease some tension in the process.  Another bonus has been reuniting with a couple we've met up in every port, and celerated my birthday with us, have come through the Canal and are on the same mission as us.  We have the same sat phone/tracking device, making communication easier and plan to leave together.  We will be meeting up in Las Perlas islands, on the West side this time, for a night or two, before pushing off.
We have an 8th and an 11th birthday to celebrate at sea so hopefully we'll have our sealegs by then to find creative ways to make them enjoyable!
Because it is now so late in the season, we've had to once again re-adjust the plan.  It is still safe to make the crossing but we are out of time to get our boat to NZ in the safe weather window before the onset of the cyclone season.  Looking into prices, cruisers blogs/reviews, emailing for availability, we have managed to secure a spot to store Ula in the Pacific. Airfares are about a quarter of the Caribbean fares, so we intend to return to NZ for a year and a half to save. That way, we can hopefully enjoy the Pacific on our way home, attempt #3.

Fish market.

So, we've got some more spares, supplies, re-provisioned. Eli and Salem have started doing water runs in the dinghy, to the dinghy dock where we can get free water. Just need to top up diesel and petrol and will hopefully be on our way in the next day or so.  My stomach is starting to produce butterflies as I type this, but I'm also hopeful, confident (in faith), we just need to get this done - give us at least 40 days.
A huge heartfelt thanks to all who sent encouraging messages to us over this last month particularly, has really helped boost us along.  Not to mention all those who have helped us practically, over the last few years, put up with our ramblings, our ups and downs through it all to get us here in the first place. My brief thanks doesn't truly reflect the deep grattitude we have, we really appreciate you all...
See you on the other side😊

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