Well it’s been a crazy few weeks since I last wrote. Been really busy but there has been some great times thrown in the mix as well. Took a bit longer than I expected to get the autopilot and new navigation package installed. As usual there was a bunch of little challenges involved and the time it takes to do these things on your own takes three times as long as if there was one extra set of hands to help out. I did hire a mate from the marina to help for a bit near the end though, and between us we got it all sorted. New installation looks great and now that I've ironed out the bugs it works a treat. Some of the features on this new package are pretty tricked out as well, I can now control all my autopilot and charting systems from my I pad and its amazing how customizable everything is, really liking the new Raymarine gear.
Also had some friends come out from Australia to visit and was great catching up with them and showing them around, just happened to coincide with the best swell to hit here in three years as well, so was more than enough excuse to take some time off to surf. John and Sarah flew in just as I got of the marina and we spent the next week hanging around and surfing and having fun. Everyone knew the swell was coming and it happened to hit right of peak season as well so people were flying in from everywhere. There were even a few well known faces to be seen around with Kelly Slater, Greg Long and Sunny Garcia in town for a few waves as well. The surf was as big as expected, but with the full moon and so much water movement, it wasn’t as clean as we had hoped. Still no shortage of waves though and felt great to paddle into something with a bit of size to it again. After a few long weeks of work, to be back in the water and getting a couple sessions in a day was heaven. There was even a bit of sun thrown in the mix as well, first sign I’d seen of it in a while. Definitely some of the best surf I’ve seen here in Bocas. Just as John and Sarah left, Alex, a mate I met in the Bahamas free diving showed up with his mate Christian and was great catching up with them as well and topped off the surf with a few nights out in town and a dive, a lot more like it as far as work and fun go.
Soon enough though playtime was over and it was back to work. Moving back into the marina to start getting some final projects finished up for the pacific. Still trying to modify the fitting for the roller furler for the drifter sail and wanting to rebuild my monitor wind vane system, both jobs with the potential for dropping small parts in the water so better done in the marina. As usual any job that starts with “all you have to do its” and this was no different. I pulled apart the monitor wind wave but could not get the main pin out to change the bearings and took a fair bit of convincing with a hammer. In the process some cracks showed up in the frame that were probably there before but only now visible, so the whole unit had to be pulled apart, inspected and sent off to be welded. Also in trying to modify the fitting for the roller furler the fitting that holds one of my sails and also is though bolted to the hull and supports the mast simply fell apart. Again, it was broken before and by adjusting things it showed itself. At the time this was less than appreciated and there were a few descriptive words offered to Kuhela, stainless steel in general and anyone else that was nearby. Really though this again is a blessing rather than a curse, at least I can deal with it now where I can get it repaired easily. So off that all went to kiwi Dave, the welder, and will hopefully be done by the time I am finished doing what needs to be done while hauled out.
I’ve also got crew sorted for the Pacific, my mate Kim who I met here in Bocas last year has come back down from Mexico to join me. Really stoked to have him on board as he knows the boat, is a really positive person, and makes a good cup of coffee. Having an extra pair of hands has really made a huge difference to the work load as well, the two of us ticked of quite a few jobs in our time in the marina. I was looked after amazingly well in the marine though, the south African couple that were looking after Kuhela at first when I was away have be so good to me, Steve has been an endless supply of help and spare parts and we started joking that he was the Panamanian “Budget Marine”, his wife Di is a truly beautiful person and has the ability to brighten the day with her gently smile and friendly ways. She is also an amazing cook and we were treated to regular presents from her, pizzas, cakes, curries and invites for dinner. They have become really good friends and I will really miss them when I move on.
Next job was to haul Kuhela out of the water, time to repaint the bottom, install a new through hull transducer, and to replace my stuffing box, which was the issue I had when I first returned and needs to be changed out. We headed over to the little town of Almirante and anchored up for the night before being hauled out the following morning. I have been really impressed with the guys over here, there were up and at work by eight and had us hauled, washed and chocked up by ten thirty. Great to have Kuhela out of the water again and will be some big things ticked off the list when she goes back into the water. The guys jumped straight into the sanding and prepping to paint as well and we were ready for the first coat by the following morning. With the yard taking care of the paint, it left us free to tackle what we needed to and we got the through hull done in a couple hours and then got stuck into replacing the stuffing box, as well as a few other little jobs. The problem with the stuffing box is that I have to get the flange that bolts to the gearbox off the shaft, not and easy thing since that has been on there since 1998. The alternative to this is to pull the engine, and I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. It took, heat, penetrating spray, boat yoga and brute force and ignorance, but I got it off in the end. Was so stoked to see it start to move and when it came off I thought I was home free.
Now time for a little background story, I ended up with two styles of packing boxes for the job as I ordered one and then after inspecting it I had my doubts about the new system so decided to go with replacing what was there. All good, except that when I went to install the replacement one, they had sent me the wrong part (I ordered mine for a 1 1/8” shaft and the sent 1”) so decided to go with the new system, but found that it didn’t fit as I had ordered the wrong size by mistake. Two options and neither would work, again those descriptive words were pretty abundant. Couldn’t believe it. The plan was to be back in the water by Friday and I was really hoping I could pull this off as the yard doesn’t work on weekends. In the end I managed to get both systems sorted out, sent the old style packing box off to get bored out at some machine shop somewhere a few hours away through one of the guys at the yard and then I went to find a bit of hose that I could use to reduce the size of the PSS and make that work. Who would have thought it would be so hard to find a 2” bit of hose, took half a day and a taxi ride to a town half an hour away, but I got it and it was game on.
Got the PSS installed and got most of the other little jobs I had on the go all finished up and the day came to get back in the water, the last little job was to put the brackets for the monitor wind vane back on, but when I pulled out the new stainless bolts I bought, they were starting to rust, good old Chinese stainless steel. So another taxi ride mission and finally found some that were up to scratch. With that done it was time to get wet. We got put in a bit after lunch and spent some time at the jetty running the engine and checking all the things we had installed. So good to feel Kuhela move again and all the new systems worked perfectly. After a couple hours looking things over we untied and headed to town. So stoked we pulled it off, got all the jobs done and back in the water on time, and best of all no more sandflies. We motored back over to Bocas, as I still cant sail until I get the welding jobs back from Kiwi Dave, but we should be good to go soon enough. I'm so ready to get to the Pacific and to new adventures. The time for the big jobs is nearly finished for a bit and now comes the time for fun and new places. Looking forward to what this year brings.