Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Weigh, Heigh And Up She Rises! – July 12, 2016

Abracadabra’s last haul-out for bottom paint and maintenance was in October, 2013 in Mazatlán, Mexico. Way too long ago. But given the dearth of haul-out facilities in Central America (and because those that do exist are pretty expensive) we had decided to gut it through until we reached Panamá.

Ha. We have cited this Yiddish proverb before, and it once again is apt:

Man Plans and God Laughs

Here’s the story of and the story behind God’s latest giggle at our expense:

Captain Bryce And The Machine
(Context - Bryce is 6'1+)

What? A haul-out for repairs, maintenance and an insurance survey
When? Yesterday morning
Where? Marina Pez Vela, Quepos, Costa Rica
Why? One afternoon during our peaceful stay in Bahía Drake, Costa Rica we came to the unfortunate realization that the propeller shaft packing gland seals weren’t sealing. [Non-Sailor Aside: Think leaking automatic transmission fluid.]

After a week of cloudy weather the solar panels and wind generator were not keeping up with our power needs, so we ran the motor. Afterward, we saw the packing gland fluid reservoir was no longer full. Not a lot of fluid was missing – but enough to be noticeable. We were sorry to be polluting the lovely bay with this small trickle of transmission fluid . . . but we were selfishly really sorry to think that faulty seals could, with time, completely fail and either cause the rotating propeller shaft to seize or let the Pacific Ocean gush into our home! Honestly, we don’t know what would happen if these seals failed – but we couldn’t think of anything positive that would result. 

We had the same problem about six months ago in the estuary of Bahía Jaltepeque, El Salvador. That time the fluid leak accelerated quickly; a trickle became a quarter cup became more within a couple of hours of motoring. Bryce was able to replace the faulty seal while Abracadabra was in the water with the guys of Paradise Fishing Lodge standing by to run a powerful additional bilge pump and to replace any failing packing materials. All went well: the seals were replaced and Abracadabra didn’t sink.

In Bahía Drake we had no back-up assistance or extra bilge pump and we were more than a bit sad that this problem had reoccurred so soon. We dinghied to shore and purchased the last bottle of automatic transmission fluid in Bahía Drake, thinking we would continue the 70+ miles south to Golfito by sailing as much as possible and topping up the fluid reservoir when motoring was necessary (we have previously mentioned the frequent lack of wind during this time of year?).

Then Bryce raised the following multi-part question: Why are we pushing on to a place where we will have to do another risky in-water repair on a system that apparently can continue to fail periodically when 50 miles behind us is a well-equipped and well-run, albeit mega-expensive, boat yard where we can have Abracadabra pulled out of the water and this f*#!%ng propeller shaft coolant system replaced with a system that doesn’t use these f*#!%ng seals?

Huh. Good question – even if it makes for a horrible run-on sentence.

The next day we (somewhat nervously) motored the 50 miles back to the Pez Vela Marina in Quepos, Costa Rica, watching the transmission fluid level drop but not plummet – and here we are, spending money like proverbial drunken sailors.  We are not only waiting for the new (and different) shaft seal system to arrive from The States. We have decided what-the-hell, as long as we are paying to have Abracadabra hauled out of the water we might as well have her bottom paint renewed and get an insurance survey.  We had been worrying about waiting until Caribbean Panamá to get new bottom paint and also wondering if our insurance company would want a new out-of-water survey before extending our cruising grounds through the Canal. Sooooo – bye, bye IRAs! Red lipsRed lipsRed lips

Now on to the fun stuff:  How?

Coming In
Giant Straps Sling Under Abracadabra

Really Big Machine!
At Pez Vela There's A Diver To Confirm
The Strap Placement

Really, Really Big Machine


Up She Rises!

And Our Next Amusing Plan?

We think these maintenance and repair items should take about a week to ten days and that we will soon be on our way to Golfito. If you’ve ever read a tour guide of Costa Rica you may wonder -- why Golfito? E.g., Lonely Planet includes statements such as: “if you have to go through Golfito . . . ”.

Well, it’s easy.  We are getting tired of the rain. It was charming and restful for the first six weeks. We read, we hiked with rain jackets, we swam anyway and we sailed/motored through the clouds and mist (and sometimes the thunder and lightening).

Sailors' Pearls -
Raindrops on Railings

But we’ve been warned that the rains are going to get even heavier soon and we’re beginning to grow moss between our toes. We’ve decided to go to Europe for the absolute heaviest part of the rainy season (September – November) and experience European rain. Golfito is the least expensive place to leave Abracadabra legally and safely while we travel. There are a couple of marinas there that will “bond” her which will allow us to leave her at a dock beyond the three-month tourist visa period that would otherwise apply to her.

In the meantime we will be trying out the restaurants of Quepos and hanging at the Hotel Sirena. We will be certified Quepos experts soon, so if you are thinking of a trip here let us know and we'll give you more information than you want.

Anyone taking bets on how well this next plan works out? We’ll keep you posted. 

Our next post will be a return to the fun part of cruising and traveling in Costa Rica!

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