01:0S 80:40W Drifting In The Pacific!

Wed 15 Feb 2012 15:55
We got through the Canal. It cost us around $1000 through our agent Roy, who looked like a young Forest Whittaker, which was a pretty good deal considering what other yachts paid. It was all done very smoothly and we can book in advance on our way back and we should be able to get through in a day. Apparently they lose money on yachts going through and considering they charge up to half a million dollars for the huge super tankers that is not surprising. I guess it costs the tankers the same amount in fuel if they had to go all the way around the cape and back up again.
Unfortunately we couldn't get into the Balboa Yacht Club the other side because it was rammed full of yachts that had just come through, a lot being with the WARC (World Rally For Cruisers). It was annoying because it had all the amenities we needed and looked rather nice. We ended up at La Playita Marina which was tiny, had no space so we had to anchor and had no showers or water. You had to order the water in advance and they said it would take 5 days to get the amount required to put in our tanks. Righto! So we stayed their for a night, got our supplies in and buggered off.
So off we headed to Ecuador. I have never seen a calmer ocean. Like glass. Luckily for us though there was a little bit of a breeze because after 12 hours, guess what, a horrible whirring noise came from our engine and the smell of burning. Joy. You have to leave her to cool down before you check everything so we put the sails up and managed 6 knots for another 12 hours. When we did check her we found that the alternator belt had worn down and was really loose. So we tightened it up. All good...No. It was then that we realised that the battery switch had been on setting two since we left Balboa. The battery switch should always be on one. You only put it on two when you want to link the domestic and starter batteries for a boost of power if the engine won't start., Leave them on two for more than half an hour I believe the engineer said and you will 'boil the bloody things' quote unquote. On a modern yacht you would have an alarm but on ours we haven't. Anyway, it's a page one error and shouldn't have happened. There was no blame to be put on anyone as that is not good for morale but it was our very own sheepish looking but loveable Dickon who fucking did it!
Ok. So we have around 48 hours to our destination and already nothing is charging and the batteries are running low. Wonderful. What else could go wrong....Ok, well about 5 hours later the same noise and smell from the engine. For fuck sake, this is getting long. Turn the engine off and change the belt. We decide to leave this until morning to properly assess it as it might be much more than just the belt. This engine, albeit a Mercedes was built in 1943 (It's a marinized truck engine from the war. Hardcore, but still 75 years old). This leads to a night of drifting thanks to no wind, with none predicted for days I hasten to add, in the biggest ocean in the fucking world. Not good for ones head space I can tell you. That was a dark night if ever there was one. If we couldn't fix it we would be properly up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
I started to dislike the Pacific and felt a very long way from home. It was okay when we were drifting without an engine in The Bay of Biscay because we knew there would be wind, and a lot of it, soon. This time of year in this part of the Pacific there is generally bugger all. So much for our nice jaunt motoring down to Ecuador and then on to the Galapagos after the hellish sailing we had on the way to Panama. How silly of us to think that. 
Anyway, the next morning we realised that it was the middle one of three belts that had to be changed. This was the first time we have had to do this, but we have all the spares so it was just going to be a long sweaty job (it is hot, sooooo hot here. 90 miles from the equator. Sorry, I know it's snowing at home!), and hopefully all would be good. 
I should have mentioned before that we have doubled the living space on our yacht. All the fuel cans and sails used to be in the forepeak so nobody could sleep in there but we had a massive purge of useless stuff and managed to pack the sails elsewhere and the fuel cans live in the aft lockers and a few are lashed on deck. It makes for a much happier boat. It's more like a flat than a bedsit now. So, while Gareth was down in the basement digging out the relevant tools and belt Dickon and I took a stroll Uptown (bow) to stretch our legs. It's good to get out for a walk now and again. When we looked towards the east of town we saw some Dolphins doing spectacular things. We have seen some Dolphin action on this adventure but this was second to none. They were somersaulting in mid air and doing crazy twirls. I shit you not. One jumped out and in mid air did a backward 360 and dived back in. By this time Gareth had hopped in a cab and joined us uptown and proceeded to give it a 9.2 out of 10. I would say that was a bit generous as the landing was a bit off but maybe I was being harsh with my 8.5. Dickon gave a 10 but he just loves Dolphins. I have never seen anything like it. Maybe they were practicing for the Olympics. Who knows, but it was amazing.
 Anyway, back at the ranch. You can only fit two people in the space to fix the engine so I sunbathed. I cannot big those two up enough, especially Gareth as it was a tough job in horrible sweaty cramped conditions but they got it done. That is what it is all about. DAY! So we were now firing on all cylinders Fingers crossed anyway because as I am writing this we are off the wrong coast of Colombia. Bandit country. If things were to go properly wrong in this part of the world and someone helps say, tow you in, they can claim half the value of your boat in salvage rights. This is old school maritime law to the point where in Greece, as they are so skint they move buoys so people ground their boats and low and behold they come out to save you and claim salvage. No RNLI round here I tells you.
Anyway, we are in good fishing territory. The Humboldt current which runs down this coast of South America produces 20% of the worlds fish, plus we are above a volcanic trench which goes from 1900 meters' to 3500 meters. Tuna and Marlin territory! The volcanic trench also gives off methane and CO2 which bubbles to the surface. It's crazy because one minute the sea is flat as you like, the next it is literally boiling. You can hear it fizzing and bubbling and quite disturbing. Boats do not stay buoyant when floating on bubbles! Needless to say the rods are back out and we nearly caught two huge Dorado today.
For some reason the sat phone will not let me send this blog so as long as nothing else goes wrong we should be in Ecuador in 36 odd hours (it's the 11th now) and you shall know we are safe then. Fingers crossed eh!
Got here safe now. Longest 4 days of my life. Will update you soon.
Love to all xxx