The voodoo Shelter.

We have been stuck at Shelter Bay Marina for a week now. Not that we did not plan for some time here, but it all seems to go a fair bit slower than anticipated. I’ve planned to get a fresh layer of ‘Sea horse friendly’ antifouling in Panama as this is necessary for possible stops in the Galapagos and New Zealand and we knew from our survey that the keel bits needed some fresh paint. We also needed to have some maintenance done on the propeller and cutlass bearing. So we’ve emailed the Marina yard weeks ahead to get a quotation for the work, get the necessary parts and book some time on the yard. According to the yard all very basic stuff that should be finished within a week. Perfect, so I thought.

On our passage from Curaçao we found some other issues that needed immediate attention. The most important one, the polluted diesel in the tank. This needed to be pumped out and cleaned as soon as possible.

In the marina we briefly met a friendly Norwegian guy named Thomas. A fellow Bavaria 55 owner who has been frequenting Shelter Bay for some years now. As we were exchanging experiences, we told him we were on the hard for some basic maintenance. He immediately laughed and warned us that we were in the voodoo chamber. He predicted that we will probably be in there for a quite a while. His experience is that unexpected delays and unforeseen extras pop up like sticking the needles in the voodoo doll. Not very encouraging, but knowing what I know now, he was definitely right.

So here’s what happened over the last 7 days..

Tuesday, 11

The Tuesday morning after we were measured up for the canal transit, we were hauled out. This all went smoothly and without any issues. The yard manager, Joel, went over our work order and added our extras to the list of already budgeted items. So far so good, it would be possible to get back in the water that Friday, or next Monday latest. Great I thought.

But then the voodoo started.

It was easy to slip into the crane channel for the lift. Shorty after the haul out the boat was treated to a quick rinse down. She was still spotless below the waterline because of the excellent bottom job our caretaker Jonathan gave her back in Curacao. Preparing the hull for the antifouling would be a breeze.

That afternoon, Joël, came to us. Joël is a friendly bloke, but clearly stuck in the middle between missing parts, slow workers and complaining boat owners. Sometimes I feel for him. You see him dragging himself around the yard, exhausted from trying to keep the wheels of the machine in gear.

“Sir we need to look at your keel, this needs to be sanded down and put in primer as the current protection layer is no good any more.” he said; My response; “Duh… yes that’s the reason for us asking to put new antifouling, right?”. “Eh, no sir, we quote for ‘light sanding of the hull’, this is more than light sanding”. I was baffled, but what can you do, once you are out of the water you’re prisoner of the yard. Just get it done I told him, there is no point arguing. The fun and games continued;

“Also sir, your cutlass bearing and anodes, we need to order that, we don’t have those here.” Now I was even more baffled. It was no surprise to the marina that we came down to do maintenance. I even sent the dimensions for the cutlass I got from the Bavaria factory weeks ago. But the yard had not prepared or pre ordered anything. So I told Joël to get this ordered as soon as possible. After the warnings from Thomas, I anticipated waiting for the part could take a long, long time.

f”But before we can measure we need to take old one out sir”. Yes, ok, do that as soon as possible then, highest priority! We left the people at the yard to sand and work and went back to the hotel next door, only 300 metres from the yard. From our room we could see Ah Ma sitting pretty next the the voodoo shelter.

By the end of the day we decided to check on progress for the day. Joel came to us again, “Sir, your paint, we do not have it…” it was  hard to stay friendly and calm at this point, I had to bite my tongue for a bit. “But sir, we can find it in red”. Then Linda snapped for a bit and told Joël a firm – NO WAY -. No red antifouling on Ah Ma, it’s not some container ship.

Wednesday, 12

As it turned out, the yard was only left with one diesel engineer, Steve. Steve is a friendly South African man. He lives on a boat in the Marina and does a little bit of everything, so he’s in high demand. He was busy working an engine emergency on a catamaran. His colleague suddenly turned sick and had to abandon a job he was working on. So it was now up to Steve.

The man working on our propeller and the tank is called Segundo. He found us a friend of a friend, that could work on the Volvo Penta. This friend could come the next day, but of course had to be paid cash, outside of the yard works. As we were stuck for time, we agreed to this knowing it would cost us an arm and a leg.

For the cleaning of the tank, Segundo had to cut hole into the plastic fuel tank. In this hole he had to create an iron inspection hatch. This meant some DIY iron works. Segundo likes to talk a lot, so very little work is actually done during the day. Our skipper named him the ‘boring diesel man’. I’m starting to loose hope for getting back into the water this Friday or even Saturday.

That afternoon, finally some good news. Joel managed to find some quality Yotun paint somewhere in the Free Zone. The paint was even cheaper than the official quote. But again cash only, outside of the marina bill. What the heck, better than red paint, so that worked for us!

A barrel of Yotun paint

Thursday, 13

The next morning, all was sanded and the keel had a fresh layer of yellow primer on it. But nothing was painted yet. The propellor was not disassembled. The old bearing was not out for measurements or ordered. And the diesel engineer had not shown up yet to start work on the tank or engine.

That afternoon, suddenly a barrel of paint presented itself at the yard. Now finally the painting can begin.

Friday, 14

Late in the afternoon the diesel engineer finally showed up. He could only look at the work that needed to be done, and not be of much use. Of course this visit warranted a hundred dollar taxi bill, sigh.

Finally the painting of the hull had started. By the end of the day the Propeller was off and the old cutlass bearing was removed. It only took 3 days to do this. Segundo had to remove the shaft to get to the strange plastic tube. Now Joel could finally start hunting for a new one.

The old cutlass bearing, finally out

We also found a barrel of very dirty diesel next to the boat, meaning the tank was finally empty. The inspection hatch was still not mounted in the tank though. Segundo figured it needed some more debate before he could finally get to work.

Saturday / Sunday, 15/16

No cutlass bearing anywhere to be found in Panama, so we were forced to start looking ourselves. I found the exact part on the internet. This had to be ordered before 14:00 on Monday for it to arrive in Panama next Wednesday.

Linda also found some very helpful people via some Google Kung Fu. The whole Sunday we were whats-apping with people and shops that might have something we could use. There was little hope for a shop right here in Colon. They had some similar parts in stock, but all American measurements, not metrical.

We’re definitely not going to be back in the water before the end of next week.

Monday, 17

In the morning we took a car to the shopping mall where the chandlery was located. We hope to find their American sized cutlass bearing would be a fit. No luck there as the measurements were indeed American imperial (inches). That afternoon we ordered our bearings from the propeller warehouse in Miami, they should arrive on Wednesday in Panama City.

That afternoon the Volvo penta engineer came back with a box full of spare parts that we would need for the engine. He was supposed to finish up the work and have it inspected by our skipper that afternoon. But at 15:30 everyone had left the yard, so the engine works are still not finished.

Tuesday, 18 (Bloody Tuesday)

After much persuasion, Segundo is finally finishing up the cleaning of the fuel tank. He called us in the morning to tell us that the work of the volvo engineer and the fuel tank works were ready to be inspected. Something that had to be ready last week. When we inspected the tank it was still filthy inside. Now I really lost my patience with Segundo. Maybe I should have done that earlier, as later that day the work was finally finished. Our skipper got a nasty cut from a scissor while rigging an inspection rag to a stick. But he patched himself up like anything he patches, with some duck-tape. I hope he doesn’t get a nasty infection.

Our bearings are now in Panama City, waiting to pass through customs. I just got an email message from FedEx telling me that there is a customs delay. Joël, the yard manager, will follow up tomorrow morning to inquire what’s wrong.

Steve came to install the Raymarine EV-300 sonar. An existing through-hull has to be made a tiny bit larger. I helped out Steve, measuring and assisting with the install as it is a two man job. My foot got snatched under a rusty pointy sharp stamp-leg. (One of the poles that hold the boat upright when on the hard). The bleeding was fierce so we had to pull out our first aid kit from the ditch bag. After patching up the foot we continued working on the sonar module.

My foot worried Linda, so in the afternoon Linda and I caught the hotel bus to the local hospital. Here I got a tetanus shot and some stitches. The hospital is right behind the mall where marina shoppers are dropped twice daily, so a quick drop off for the bus driver. The service at the emergency room of the hospital was quick and professional. Within 30 minutes I had two stitches, a tetanus shot and a recipe for antibiotics. It did take some time to get the antibiotics from the pharmacy next door though.

After our quick stop at the hospital we got on to a taxi to town to pick up a car. Now we are finally mobile. Our first point of attention, a stop at a Korean restaurant for some decent food. The food in the hotel is abysmal at best. Greasy, salty and the same Cajun spicy flavour for every dish.

In the mean time, back at the yard, our skipper assisted Steve to finish the installation of the sonar. Tomorrow I will see how far the cable made it from the front of the boat to the back. Probably not far enough, but an extension cord is already in the mail.

Ah Ma haul out, shelter bay

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