Monday, 23 January 2017

At last ....Providencia

Finally we had our weather window and set sail leaving Puerto Lindo behind us bound for Providencia. On anchor in Linton Bay with very little wi fi we had plenty of opportunity to try out our new toy, the Iridium Go, the latest satellite system from Iridium. We had set it up in Shelter Bay and whilst a little tricky to set up it was great once we got the hang of it. We are now able to use our I Pad to phone, text, get the weather, plan our passage according to the weather ahead and keep in contact with the big wide world whilst at sea. We had a short weather window but we figured it should be enough and while we had some fairly heavy swell to start with we were able to sail virtually the whole of the 300 or so nautical miles. As we were fair bombing along at 7+ knots for a lot of the time inevitably we arrived in Providencia in the dark.....just what we didn't want. It was blowing 25 knots and we had waypoints to get into the harbour which is surrounded by fairly shallow water and a reef. It was however very well buoyed and what's more the lights on the red and green buoys worked! A pleasant change! So we went for it dropping the hook in the outer harbour some way from the quay, but safe enough so we could get our heads down for a well earned sleep.
Checking in the next day we wandered up the hill to find Mr. Bush, the agent everyone seems to use to check in.... I think he's the only one! There are only 5000 people on Providencia but we found them to be very friendly, super helpful and very proud of their Island. People there speak English, Spanish and Creole so you are never quite sure what language to attempt. Many times I attempted my broken Spanish only to find they spoke perfect English whilst on other occasions I'd speak English and they would reply in Creole! You can tell there has been pirate territory many many years ago. We moved the boat closer to the dock in the inner harbour taking care to go right to the end of the buoyed channel before we turned, some had been tempted to turn before the last buoy and had found themselves stuck in shallow water needing a tow out. Closer to the dock we were able to avail ourselves of the free internet on the dock and it was less of a distance to dinghy in.
We decided to hire a golf cart to explore the island with our friends off Genesis, with Christmas coming up the whole island was in throws of decorating the place with Christmas decorations, some strange like Santa playing the saxophone outside the Catholic Church others a bit more traditional. However at night the whole town was light up like a Christmas tree, the bridge, houses, the town square anywhere they could put a light they did. Christmas was the big deal in Providencia. All along the roads there were make shift butchers chopping up pigs for the big day, the queue for propane was enormous making sure they had something to cook it with and then to top it all they would slap a coat of paint on the outside of their house to make sure it looked just right. Christmas Eve they were ready to party and we received a call on the VHF to tell us that he had been informed that the fireworks were going to be set off in the harbour and that we were in the direct line of fire! He asked us to move.... he suggested we tie onto a barge over the other side of the harbour in shallow water....err I don't think so. We respectfully noted his concern and said we would be at midnight there was John with his bucket on deck ready to put out any stray fireworks but aside from a couple of pieces of black cardboard our decks were clear and all was well. The locals partied til dawn after all that excitement we slept.

It does not take long to drive around Providencia and we found ourselves at South West Bay, a lovely sandy Bay littered with restaurants. The Divine Nino had been recommended to us and it did not disappoint for $35 you could share the fish platter which considered of a large Snapper, a Lobster, Calimari, Shrimp .....too much food! A good place that I can recommend for a lunch that will not disappoint.
The anchorage had good holding which was just as well as the wind whistled through the gap between the Main Island and Santa Catalina Island 30 - 40 knots at times but the seas were flat it it was not uncomfortable. We had looked at a weather window around Boxing Day, but having checked out with Mr. Bush, Boxing Day came and went the winds were just too strong and the seas too high out there. This was confirmed when our friends Doris and Hans on RioCaja limped back into Port having left on Christmas Eve with their Genoa shredded and engine trouble having had a thoroughly horrid time on their way to Belize forcing them to turn back. That settled it we were definitely staying put until the right weather window turned up!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Finally .....time to go!

We returned to the boat early October, relieved to avoid the colder weather back in the U.K. The boat yard had moved Orion out of the security pen ready for us to start work on her. The blisters that we ground out before leaving looked good, dry and no smell which I'm told is a good sign we now had to wait for a few dry days to fill the holes and apply our Coppercoat. Waiting for dry days in Panama in early October is no mean task. It rains, really rains most days and evidence of this was the colour of our ropes....all black, our dinghy covered in black mould and generally the outside of the boat was fifty shades of green and black. It took a whole day to clean up the dinghy and we after scrubbing our lines we hung them out on a line under the boat to let them dry between showers! 
We had our Coppercoat safely stored away in an inside locker, or so we thought. As we opened the locker together it out we realised that one of the bottles of resin had split in the heat depositing it contents in the bottom of the locker. A horrible sticky,gloopy mess stuck to the bottom of the locker and to anything in its path. We realised quickly that this meant we did not have enough Coppercoat for the job but for once we realised that luck was on our side as a really nice Canadian skipper who had put Coppercoat on the bottom of his catamaran came over to us in the yard and on the off chance asked us if we needed any! Coppercoat has a shelf life and really can only be kept for a year or so and as he was going through to the Pacific side his 'spare' would not be useable by the time he got to New Zealand result ......we had our Coppercoat! We now just had to wait for the rain to stop. This is particularly important when applying Coppercoat, as its water based and rain will just wash it way. We needed one day  without rain to apply our four coats and we had wait patiently for over a week before the got the right weather window . Up with the lark or in Panama it's the Howler monkeys, we got our four coats on, the heat helping to set the thin layers of Copper within an hour or so for each coat. However our fingers were still crossed for no rain for 48 hours after application ....a tall order! So we covered all the bits of the hull we had treated with black bin bags and hoped the would stay on ....they did. 
Finally after nearly three weeks in the yard we could splash back in the water and wait for our new anchor chain there. After a false alarm when one of the hoses went on the Travel lift we eventually made it into the water, a day later than planned but ...relief! 
Whilst in the water Tropical Storm Otto decided to hit the region, tucked up in Shelter Bay we were safe enough. It is exactly what the name would suggest, good shelter. The winds in Shelter Bay never really got beyond 40 knots but the rain was torrential for around two days and the flooding in Colon was a problem along with the palm trees blown knocking out the power. The power was down for two days and whilst there is a generator for the hotel we were without power for just over two days on the dock. Some people were getting a bit twitchy about that and the thought of being without air con was more than some boats could bare. One boat bought another generator (their third!) as they thought they would be without power for quite a few days only for the power to come back on hours after the order was finalised. Well as I said to them can never have too many generators! He failed to see the humour in that statement having just spent $900 needlessly. 

Our anchor chain arrived a week or so after and after marking it and after general checks we felt we were hot to trot but John being John did one final check and... almost afraid to tell me he finally owned up to the fact that he thought we had a problem with our heat exchanger....what the hell? John revealed that whilst down in the engine room he had felt air blowing out of the heat exchanger and on closer examination after taking the heat exchanger to bits we found that there were small holes in heat exchanger where the exhaust water injection takes place.... What next!!? By this time we had already checked out of Panama but hey ho if we couldn't leave we couldn't leave so after much deliberation and with the help of JB Weld we filled the holes so that the heat exchanger worked perfectly and we set sail for Porto Lindo trying to get as far East as possible before heading North to Providencia.It was good to be back on the water again! 

Whilst waiting for our chain we hired a car and spent a day in Panama City. Panama City is quite different to Colon, money has been spent on renovation and there are some pretty squares centred around the churches, reminiscent of Cartegena, though if I had to choose between the two I would choose Cartegena. Hopefully some day Panama will invest some money into Colon.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The joys of boat ownership

So it has been a long time since the last blog and a lot has happened .....not all of it good. Having got back to the boat after a great week in Gibraltar visiting Sarah, John's daughter and her family and then a week down in Kent dog sitting for my sister, we were pleased to see that the interior was mould free and whilst she needed a good clean nothing too serious. However, the heat had taken a toll on one particular area of the interior. John and I had spent a long time when we were in Gibraltar all those years ago replacing the headlining and relieving Orion of what is known by other Amel owners as 'Amel droop'! It was a pig of a job but we took comfort in the thought that it was a job once completed would no need to be wrong could we be. The intense heat of both Colombia and Panama has taken its toll and now virtually all of our efforts those years ago in Gib have been in vain.....the bloody linings all coming off! The problem is not the adhesive but the sponge lining has just degraded to dust with the combination of heat and humidity. I have to admit I shed a tear with the thought of having to do that particular job again! 
Well we decided we would come out the water replace the anodes and check the bottom. Once out we replaced the anodes no problem but we were dismayed to find small osmosis bubbles start to appear once we had been out a day or so. I know that boats don't sink as a result of osmosis but we had a decision to make do we grind all the bubbles out ( around 30 or so mainly on one side and around the water line ) and then leave the to dry or do we carry on? After a lot of deliberation we decided to grind the buggers out and leave the boat on the hard for a couple of months. Returning back to the UK for a couple of months would enable John to get his eyes fixed, something we had been toying with for a while. John has glasses that fix in the middle over the bridge of the nose with tiny magnets joining up the two halves......leaning over the compass with those glasses ......not a good idea when trying to navigate! They drove the compass wild. The plan was to have lens replacement in both eyes but we needed to be in the UK for at least three months to get the surgery done. The procedure itself takes no more than a day but the after care would involve regular check ups. This seemed to be the ideal opportunity to get the work done. 

We left Orion on the hard but not before discovering yet another problem. When we leave her John always empties all the anchor chain out of the anchor locker and when we attempted to do it this time we discovered that having been in the Marina for so long and as a result yet again of the humidity rain and heat ....the last forty metres of chain was just one massive rusty clump impossible to free and get out of the anchor locker! Access to our anchor locker is via a small locker in the bow so armed with a lump hammer and hacksaw John wriggled his way into the locker and tried to hack solid ball of rust free. There was much sweat, cursing, swearing and blood sweat and tears but with a taxi due to take us to the airport in a couple of hours he had to admit defeat. The job would have to wait until we returned when we would also have to buy new anchor chain. Bliss and Joy! Something to look forward to on our return!