Connectivity hasn’t been great. That’s my excuse.
It’s been a good few days – though I took a couple on the chin. Things were going too well for me to get through unscathed. It’s become more about keeping composure when I get hit, than avoiding the punches altogether. One thing is becoming obvious – how hard it is to put San Blas in the rearview. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
The saildrive. The ****ing saildrive. I’ve come to hate these things, though I wasn’t a fan of them in the beginning. The saildrive is a transmission of sorts – it has three gears (forward, neutral, reverse) and transfers the power of the engine to the prop. I have two and the starboard one chewed through an integral piece called the Sliding Sleeve. It’s a pretty rare occurrence – but I’m accustomed to unusual failures.
A common failure would be so bland.
With the help of Mike on Gilana (thanks dude!) we were able to remove the offending part. Then the parts-search was on. Turns out it was about $700 to get the part in the States, never mind the shipping and other BS required to get the part back onboard. Never mind the labor and the downtime. I decided, instead, to purchase a complete spare (though used) saildrive for the same price – thereby securing a bunch of other spares as well.
When I arrived back in San Blas, the saildrive was waiting on me (thanks Susan). It was then up to me to remove the part from the spare saildrive and put it into my starboard saildrive. Sounds easy, but it was hardly so. It took about a day of sweating and cursing and bleeding in the engine room in inhuman positions, but I got it back together. Then I needed to put back together the spare saildrive. Then I tried it all out. Reverse was forward and forward was reverse. I’ve seen this before so I pulled things out and got them put back together correctly. All said and done, it seemed as if my saildrive woes were (at least temporarily) over.
I was free again. Wow.
Lots of diving. Nate’s fish delivery service was back in full swing. Need fish? No problem – I was keeping my skills sharp and bringing back quality food for friends. I put more fish onboard Bad Kitty, Runner, and (later) Paradise. Steve quit bullshitting about eating SPAM and admitted that there were fish here – probably more to do with said fisherman than the fish (just getting even for all that SPAM talk, Steve). Though one night Steve caught a Horse-eyed Jack (and told me it was a Blackfin Tuna). My fridge/freezer was full. Teena’s days onboard were coming to an end.
Then Andre showed up. Both of the pics below are dated – but we didn’t take many pictures last time ’round.
Andre has become a close friend. As close as you can be without being blood. He runs a backpacker boat from Cartagena to San Blas (and back the other way). He pulled in next to us and we headed over there. Then we had lunch with his crew and guests. He was leaving later that afternoon for Robinson Island and then onto the East Lemmons for a little beach party. This was as good of a chance as any to test my saildrive repairs and so – we decided to go with Andre.
On the way to Isla Robinson everything was fine. We were chugging along at a fair pace, under full power. Of course, when we arrived, things took a turn for the worse. As I was setting the anchor I put my starboard engine into reverse – and heard a grinding sound. I immediately killed the engine and took a look into the saildrive – there was oil and nothing seemed amiss. This led me to suspect one of two things: a small piece of the broken part worked it’s way into the gears/bearings or the bearings had begun to seize. Not cool. Major bummer.
Determined to not let this screw up my day – we continued on as planned. After the short stop at Robinson Island we headed to the East Lemmons and started the party routine. There were several captains there with full crews – so the party was in full swing.
The next day was Teena’s departure – after which I would spent a few days alone onboard. Steve was heading to Shelter Bay. I had crew coming in on the 19th – but that was 9 days away. So that evening when a girl asked me if I wanted crew for a few days, I responded positively. I told her that she would be cooking and cleaning – but that we would sail a bit and dive alot. She was keen, and so plans were made to move her from Andre’s boat to mine in a couple of days. The crew in question is a 23 year old Austrian girl named Sandra – and to date, she’d been epic. As a general rule, I don’t bring on people under 25 – but this was spontaneous and turned out to be a good time to break general rules. Meet Sandra.
When Sandra arrived, we spent a day relaxing and cooking and getting ready to get under way the following day. I wanted to get back to The Swimming Pool for a break in the wind/waves/weather – so I could get to the outer reef and chase Black Grouper. Of course – the wind was in our face, so I diverted to a Western part of the Coco Banderos, where we dropped the anchor behind Drummer – who would become friends.
That afternoon we went for a quick snorkel and I found a couple of giant lionfish for the beach-fire we would have with Drummer and Soliel (?) that evening. We made friends that night and all of us were talking about heading to Cuba – wanting to get there before the floodgates opened and officially let Americans in to do what they do best – corrupt culture with the almighty dollar. All of the reports of Cuba are great – big fish, cheap living, interesting culture. Cheap rum, good cigars. Even pretty women. There seems very little reason to not go (besides the horrible amount of boat work that lies ahead of me).
After we ate garlic/butter lobster and grilled fish, talked sailing and spearfishing – everyone perched on driftwood benches around the fire – I was reminded, again, how lucky I am to be here. Even if the damn boat would never be completely fixed. Even if I have to work until I’m one hundred years old. Even if I’m going broke faster than I ever imagined.
It’s all good.