|Cartagena anchorage at night|
We were back at the anchorage and getting into the dingy to go buy food when our bilge pump went off. We went back inside the boat and sure enough our bilge was full - we had only been back in the water for a few hours! I turned the bilge pump on to empty the bilge and the pump wasn't pumping but the bilge was still filling. James found the source of the leak while I hand scooped water out of the bilge and into a bucket. The stuffing box around our propeller shaft was dripping steadily at anchor so must have been really spraying while we were motoring! We stuffed rags under the leak and wrapped the shaft in absorbent cloth that I could squeeze that into a bucket and reapply. James took the pump apart and rebuilt it (2 years ago this would have been so daunting - we've come so far!). So now the pump was fixed and the bilge was empty. Step two was figuring out how the hell to fix the stuffing box. Most of what we read said this should be done while the boat is hauled out (are you F'ing kidding me - we were hauled out that morning!) since you are essentially opening a hole below the water line. A few articles said it can be done in the water if need be as long as you have a fully functioning bilge pump that can keep up with the flow of incoming water - hmmmmm not sure if we do! We honestly thought we would have to haul the boat out again, morale was low, it was very, very low.
After reading many, many articles on this and talking with our friends on Aqua Vida who had done the same repair last year while in the water we felt more confident to try it. We spent the next 2 days trying to track down the stuffing material - which every article we read assured us would be absolutely no problem wherever you are since every boat with a propeller shaft needs the stuffing material. I guess no one told Cartagena, Mammonal or Bosque they "should" have this, because they don't. While we anxiously searched high and low for wax coated flax rope in a very specific diameter we prayed that while we were off the boat the bilge was working if needed! Then something very strange happened - the drip slowed dramatically! We're not sure if the stuffing material that had dried out while the boat was hauled plumped up again while we were in the water but whatever happened worked in our favour. After borrowing some tools we were able to carefully tighten the nut on the propeller shaft (which if done incorrectly rips the rubber seal and water gushes in). Phew crisis one averted.
We had found a great metal workshop in Bosque and decided while we were in Cartagena it made sense to replace our chainplates where some water had been dripping in and was showing some signs of electrolysis. This is when we discovered some brand new problems - yieppe!
The toggle on the shroud had completely corroded and broken. We have some strange French design that is nearly impossible to take apart and even more impossible to find a replacement for in Colombia. Luckily we had a spare shackle that we could just about get into the narrow space and secure our shroud. This is still in place today :)
This was a much larger problem. When we took the bathroom cupboards out and removed the cover-plate that sits on deck over the chainplate we discovered our deck had a rather large hole in it. Not ideal ever anywhere on any boat but right next to the chainplate that hold the mast up - even less ideal!
Morale got even lower! Hence the complete lack of blog posts - time has been spent searching for materials, repairing things, wallowing in self-pity, and wiping up copious amounts of sweat (Cartagena is seriously hot in August).
After several infuriating and immensely frustrating interactions with boat supply stores we finally found somewhere that would sell us what we needed to fix the hole. And thank god we did as the combination of a large hole in the deck and rainy season meant a VERY wet boat. The one good thing about the repair is we have a boat design that allowed us to complete the repair from the inside without cutting a whole in the fibreglass decking. Thus we could complete the repair and ensure it was structurally sound without worrying about cosmetics - a very good thing since neither of us has ever worked with fibreglass and as it turns out we both really sucked at it!
Things that have not been fun on this journey include the following:
Trying to repair a hole in the deck in an anchorage where boats blow by you at 20 knots causing you to hang on for dear life or fall over. It being over 40 degrees day and night. Having the bathroom and living room cupboards out and the boat stripped down to the hull and everything in those cupboards and the cupboards themselves stacked up in the corridor to the V-berth (thus reducing your meager square footage of living space even further). Having to keep the hatches closed (because it's rainy season and the various materials and epoxies can not get wet or they will be ruined) then using dremels, sanders, saws and generating loads of sawdust. Gravity: when you are working upside down trying to get sheets of fibreglass to stay in place and you have epoxy dripping everywhere and so much sweat in your eyes you have been blind for the last 45 minutes and doing the repair by feel. When the epoxy from the ceiling drips onto the plastic you put out to protect the floor and couch and you step in/put your elbow in it etc. and then you move and all the plastic and ever tool and pot of glue on the plastic moves with you - can't tell you how many times that happened. When you get overzealous and mix up too much of the epoxy but you did it in a container that was too small and not enough oxygen was available and it turns red hot and starts smoking and boiling. That about sums up the deck repair - let's just say we were swearing like sailors.
|Reno fun times|
|James working behind the plastic screen|
|Starting to disassemble the boat|
|The ceiling off|
|Fighting gravity to get the new core to stay in place|
|More stuff keeps appearing in the hallway|
Once we got the hole fixed we took our chainplates to be replaced and had both our swim ladders repaired. The man who runs the metal shop was so lovely and said we'd been so many times he thinks of us as his children! (He incidentally told us he bought his daughter a new Hummer and a new condo in Miami for her birthday so maybe not a bad family to be adopted into). This is the same company who did all the metal work for the new installation of The Virgin of Carmen in the Cartagena harbour for the Pope's visit this fall. There was some left over stainless steel from that project and since our project was for a boat German said he used the "Virgin's stainless steel" - the Virgin of Carmen is the patron saint of sailors. I'll take it - we need all the help we can get!
|Virgen del Carmen at the entrance to Cartagena harbour|
I know other things broke and we had to fix them but those two are the ones that stick out. Finally - we were San Blas bound!!
|Gotta love when a submarine pops up in the anchorage - creepy!|
|Celebrating my birthday in old town Cartagena with a mojito|