After our canal transit we were relieved to be done, but we had zero time to relax. It was time to get to work. In the one month we could afford in the marina we had quite a lot of projects to complete.
First up: Taking out the old Yanmar. 3QM30. This started out smooth, Jon started taking off most of the easily removable parts, such as pumps, the starter, the alternators and the exchanger to make the 800+ pound engine just a little lighter when the time came to lift it. As Jon removed the parts I cleaned them up, gave them a good spraying of WD40 then rapped them up in plastic for storage. We plan on selling these new and like new parts to others who have the 3QM30.
Anyways, with the engine stripped down to almost nothing, we were ready to lift the beast out. Let me remind you, most people haul their boat and use a crane to do this project, those such things were not an option for us as they would have pushed us even farther over the edge in the budget debt we have going. So we came up with a system using the boom, mast, halyards spectra spliced bridles and a very large rubber bow roller. The idea was to use the main sheet attached to the boom to winch up the engine, then once it was high enough to clear the companion way we would use the rubber bow roller to simply roll it forward into the cockpit. And it worked…. Well almost. We had about 2 more inches to go and we would have been in the cockpit. Jon was straddling the boom, pushing the rubber roller down the boom, which by the way did not “roll” at all, so he had to use blunt force to push and nudge it. I was down below keeping the engine from swinging side to side into our interior teak. I had the thought that maybe we should now tie a line from the front of the engine to the back of the boat, so that just in case something were to fail, this line would stop the engine from plummeting backwards into the boat. Just as I finished the thought and was about to share my idea with Jon, I heard the snap.
Just in the nick of time, I was able to get myself out from under the engine ( not that I was under it, I was standing next to it) but my cat-like reflexes made me step back just in time to keep all my toes, but my left hand was late. Right away Jon yells down to me ” ARE YOU OKAY?!” I responded, ” Yea, but I think my wrist is broken” At the time we had so much adrenalin pumping nothing hurt, but my wrist was bleeding, and starting to swell as well as turn black and blue.
Above me, Jon also heard the snap but all he could do was hold on. The boom came flying up towards his face and even more painful, his manhood. So when he called down to me, it was in a higher pitch.. If you know what I mean. So there we were, Me bleeding with a useless wrist, and Jon with a hitch in his step and an octive higher voice. We took a look at the damage done to Prism, relived that the engine did not go all the way through the boat, and that we were not taking on any water, we set off for some ice and medical attention for my wrist.
Let me also explain, while this is going on, Panama is in a week-long holiday, so no one is working, nothing is open. Not till the following Monday, it was only Wednesday. The cruising community was more than helpful, and I had a bag full of ice on my wrist with in 7 (ish) minutes of the engine falling. A couple on our dock are both retired RN’s, they took a look, and said I needed to get an x Ray as soon as I could get into town, and that I needed to keep it iced and try not to move it. So we did just that.
We went back to Prism to really have a look at the damage, now that we know everyone was okay ish. It was heart breaking to look at. When we started the lift the Yanmar, we had spun her around for a better clearance through the companion way. So on its way down it smashed and splintered a teak fiddle from our galley and the gear box landed just past the bulge access point, leaving Prisms’ cabin sole with a hole in the floor and a busted support stringer. But miraculously the engine kinda landed back on the engine beds, just you know, facing the wrong way.
What happened you ask? Jon thought right away it was a knot that had come undone, quickly checking to see if the bowline I had tided came undone.. Yea no. No Bowline of mine has ever and will never come undone… I mean I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything, but I know my knots. Anyway… Come to find out…. It was the spectra bridle that had failed. A splice Jon has used over 100 times, failed. Lesson learned… We should have whipped the splice.
I was useless as I could not use my wrist, let alone use the galley and Jon was just so unhappy about what just happened, we could not even stay on the boat. Our Friends on SV Sirena invited us over for dinner, and more ice and invited us to just stay the night on their boat to “get away” from our failed of the day. It helped, not that Jon or I got any sleep as I was in pain, and Jon was in pain just thinking about what he did to our poor boat.
We think that is was the Yanmar’s way of smiting us for replacing it. In its defense, the Yanmar still ran great! So why did we replace it? Cause we are crazy. Well and also the gear box was just starting to act up, then the British Pound did a nose dive. So we asked for a quote from BETA ( in the UK) and the price was too good to pass up. Plus we were in an area that was free to import and access to a marina that would let us do the work ourselves, in the water.
So after a 2 day break, I stayed out-of-the-way wrote the canal transit blog while Jon and a few other men in the marina made quick work (with a new strategy) of removing the old Yanmar out of the boat and onto the dock.
Step two (non planned): Fixing the damaged teak from engine falling.
We were able to hire a local man who had been working on a wood boat on our dock, his name is Tino and he was our life saver. We asked him to come over and take a look at the damage done and how much it would cost to fix it. The price was so good we asked him to also fill in the holes that we’re going to exposed with the new engine cluster. We like to call the pervious owners of Prism, drill happy. Instead of repurposing a hole, they would just drill a new one.. Needless to say Prism has a lot of holes in her teak all around the boat, it’s something we do not like to talk about. Any who…. Tino told us ” no problemo, yo tango teaka, y neciseto una semana. Which translates to: no problem, I have the teak and I will be done in one week.
So the next morning Tino came over at 8am, which was to early for me cause I was not up and didn’t have my coffee or breakfast, but Jon was up, and well Tino was working in the galley and I did not want to get in his way, so I went without coffee… Scary I know. The wood work Tino was doing was great, ad we were happy with how it was going, that was till he said he was done. And yet the new hole was not addressed. Lost in translation was the fact we wanted that fixed as well, but he needed to get the teak and the price just went up $50. Out of our budget…. LUCKY for us a wonderful life saving couple who was in the middle of replanking their large Stevens wood powerboat had A LOT of teak, and was generous enough not only to give us the teak we needed, but also cut it and ran it through a plainer! THANK YOU SO MUCH CRAIG AND SHERRY!!! So we brought back the teak and gave it to Tino, he smiled and said he would be back the next day to install it.
We kinda liked the access this new hole gave us to the bilge, so we did not permanently instill this new teak, instead it is now another removable access point. Sweet! We are so happy with the work Tino did and it only cost us $200. I gave him an extra $20 as a thank you, I mean the man stopped all of his other work to help us out, worked from 8 am to about 4pm for 6 days, he was awesome. So now that we no longer had any holes in our teak that we didn’t want, it was time to move on.
Step Three: degrease, clean, remove old sound insulation, paint and install new sound board.
This actually took longer than we thought. 30 years of grease in an engine room and bilge is nasty. Shockingly it was not too terrible. I was able to wipe it up using a Eco-friendly degreaser and about 1000 paper towels. In fact I was using so many paper towels I think it counter acted the eco friendly degreaser, so I switched over to rags.
Before we knew it, the engine room was staring to look pretty, and it was time to remove the old sound board. Now the stuff we had looked like normal ol’ partial board, but someone mentioned it might also have asbestoses in it. Our boat was made in the early 80’s so the odds were more likely it just being partical board, but just incase we wore respirators and eye protection. Better safe than sorry right. So the scraping started, but it left a layer of nasty sticky glue that we had to use a heat gun to remove.
Once the glue was removed we sanded the wood and Jon used a ginger to prep the fiberglass beds for new paint. That was a messy job, when he was done he looked up at me covered in the white itchy dust of death and looked like a sloth hanging from a tree. So he come out, took off the tiveck suite, I hosed him down then we went to the pool.
Side note: The pool at Shelter Bay Marina was a saving grace, on the hot days it was so nice to take a 15 minute break midday to cool down, and at night was amazing to just soak and relax after a long day. WORTH IT.
Okay, back to step three; once we had the engine room painted and the wood prepped for the new sound board, we measured, then measured again, drew out the measurements, double checked once again then made the cuts. This sound board ( sound insulation) is just about 2 inches think, it has a layer of foam, then rubber, then foam again then a protective layer of heat resistant stuff. It is heavy, we used a heat resistant contact cement and glued the cut outs up.
Wow, the engine room looked so new, clean, shiny and sexy. All we needed now was the pretty red thing to go in. Leading us to
Step four: Moving old Yanmar and receiving new BETA. ( ok so we received the new engine before we did the soundboard, cause, well the sound board was in the same box as the engine.. But I digress). I won’t go into the logistics for recovering the engine, I’ll save that for Jon to write in his blog about the repower. So we were al ready to receive our new engine, it was in route, should be at the marina by midday. Midday comes and goes, then 5 comes and goes, now our yard guys and the fork lift are no longer an option. Our engine was delayed because of delays with the ferry and canal. ( Shelter Bay is kinda in the middle of no where and is a pain in the ass to get to by land) So our engine arrives after dark, and we have to somehow get the giant ass box off the truck and onto a wrickity old trailer.
We used this said trailer to move the old Yanmar, so before we could use it for the Beta, we had to get it off of it. Hidden in the back of the yard are 2 old A frames, we rigged up some chain, pullies, blocks and what not. Lifted that fat old sucker up put it elseware (sadly to most like rust and die), then we backed the truck under the A frame, lifted the new box up, truck pulled out, trailer moved in and we lowered it down. Yes it kinda did go that smooth. We had the help and wisdom of two fellow cruisers who abandoned their just plated dinners to help us. THANK YOU MARK AND DICK!
With their help we pushed the giant box on the wrickity trailer to a lighted sheltered spot and chained her up. The next morning we went up to open our X-mas present. We were not the only ones waiting to see the new red Beta, over the last few weeks new friends were just as excited as we were, so we had quite the audience. Now that everyone excluding the staff and locals new what was in the huge box, we moved quickly to get the engine moved down to the dock and into the boat before someone walked away with our goods.
Step Five: Taking the engine out of the box and carefully lowering the new engine into Prism.
Once again we had help from new found friends to bring our new engine into her new home safely. This time there were no slip pings, dropping or failing. We had extra extra extra safety lines as well. Our friend Jez took the time away from his long list of boat projects to help us A-line the beta and mark out where to drill the new holes in the engine beds. He spent all day with us, and we are so thankful for his help ( and look forward to convincing them to hang around in the San Blas with us before they head north).
Step Six: The INSTALL! Jon and I had the system down at this point, and to make sure we were 100% about where we were going to bolt this beauty down we ended up lifting (slightly) and moving the Beta in and out of the engine room to the galley ish walkway area about 6 more times till we were happy. Jon did I would say 98% of all the labor in this engine install, I pretty much just handed him tools and made food. Anyways we/ he hooked up all the hoses, and wired in all the stuff ( I don’t feel like getting all technical on y’all right now). Only one thing left to do….
Step Seven : TURN THE BAD BOY ON!
We had let all those who had helped in so many ways know that it was time. We had a crowd and the celibitory drinks ready… Jon did the Pre-Heat, everything sounded right, 5 seconds, then he goes to turn the key.
Nothing. Yep nothing. That was a good laugh. But Jon being the sharp tool in the shied, he knew what the problem was. With a quick tighten down of a bolt to the main battery we were ready to try again.. 5,4,3,2,1… Beep, key turn… VAROOM!
IT WORKS!!!!! WE HAVE GOOD WATER FLOW! Test the gears, WE HAVE FORWARD! WE HAVE REVERSE! IT WORKS! EVERYTHING WORKS!!!!!
No we are not done yet.
Step Eight: Install new Sigma Drive and new Auto-Prop. Easy Jon did all the work, I handed him tools.
Step Nine: Test Drive. EVERYTHING WORKS! WE HAVE SO MUCH POWER!
Step Ten: PUT PRISM BACK TOGETHER! For a month Prism was in complete and total shambles. I was ready to jump ship. I mean we had shit everywhere. We had all out stuff out on the foredeck, we had stuff out on the dock ( the marina loved that) we had stuff on the table, on the settee.
We would have to clear a spot to eat at night, and also remade our Pullman bed, because everyday there would be something else we needed that lives at the bottom of the storage under our bed. Putting everything back took us about 4 days.
We spent Thanksgiving with fellow cruisers. The restaurant served Turkey while the lot of us brought the sides potluck style. Yumm
We were getting ready to leave, our month had passed and we were outta there, that was until we received an email the night before that our newest sponsor had sent us their wind generator an it would be there in the next 2 days. Okay… We will stay. This gave us time to really give Prism the bath she needed. I had forgotten that we had a white-ish boat. Even with all the rain, Prism was filthy, I took ALL day to clean everything just on the outside. But because we were staying, and Prism was freshly washed, we invited friends over who all wanted to check Prism out during our stay, but we never had the time, nor could anyone see or enter the boat.
So we showed Prism off, then we were getting ready to leave once again, I headed up to pay our bill and let the office know we needed fuel. The young man in the office looked at me with true sincerity to let me know the fuel dock was closed, It was Thursday and 11am. Come to find out, it was a holiday… Mothers Day in Panama. Okay we are a sail boat we don’t need fuel… We can pick it up at another port on our way to the San Blas. Also not a good option as all the ports leading to the San Blas have irregular fuel options, that could leave you guessing whether or not you are going to get fuel and also pay more for it. Okay we will just stay one more night and get fuel in the morning and then leave… Yea Jon shot that down because the next day was a Friday… and well everyone knows you CANT leave on a Friday. So Saturday it was. On Friday we got our fuel ( hopefully the last time we will have to get fuel for a LONG TIME now that we are in the trades) and got ready to leave Saturday mid morning.
This was a good thing it happened, because out of the whole month we were in Shelter Bay, we did not once take the time to walk around. Yes we had used the bus system to get to Colon to buy food, and we walked all around the marina and yard getting things we needed and what not, but we never took a walk to just take in our surroundings.
So now that we were stuck there for 2 more days, we set out. And holy cow how cool is that place! We wish we had more time to explore the surrounding areas, but we simply don’t have it in the budget to stay any longer. I’m just glad we got one good hike in.
Sat morning, we said our goodbyes and see ya soons as we casted our lines and putted out of the marina. Out beyond the protection of the Break wall we made our way to Portobelo. Our first Caribbean Anchorage!