The reality - problems with boats!!

Published on 6 February 2024 at 21:54

So I mentioned in the last blog that the engine wouldn't restart coming out of the canal - we've spent several hours trouble shooting. The problem has now gone away, we're pretty sure it was a flat battery issue, probably because the engine had been at idle for hours and we've proved there is no charge at idle. So we think everything is fine, but more importantly have established we have workrounds/redundancy even if either the battery or alternator were to fail, so we can go on!


But the electronic controller for our solar panels has also failed (still under warranty but that doesn't count for much out here!) - we have lived without this since Santa Marta, as we have been able to charge our batteries from shore power. But we definitely. need them before crossing the Pacific. We can use our generator to charge batteries, but would need to run it for 6-8 hours a day without the panels so we have been working hard for the last week to have the old unit repaired or source a replacement, not a trivial exercise! But hopefully we collect a new unit tomorrow.


We also found rips in our foresail, but were able to get these repaired at Shelter Bay before transitting the Canal


Equally, or possibly more, worrying is that we have been shipping water ever since the boat crossed the Atlantic. As mentioned in previous blogs we believed waves had got through vents at the back of the boat (which they undoubtedly had), and that that water was then gradually continuing to work its way through the boat into the bilges. We spent many unpleasant at Shelter Bay dismantling parts of the innards of the boat (floors, beds, air conditioning ducting etc etc) to find drainage paths and where the water was originating from, as well as getting much improved ways to drain the water out, and accurately measure how much was collecting to ensure it was gradually reducing. We found water leaking out of a timber core where a hole had been cut through it for air conditioning very close to the back of the boat, which we thought verified our theory. 


But as soon as we got into Lake Gatun the water we were collecting in the bilges immediately changed from salt water to fresh which changed things completely - it proved that water is actually still leaking in (and at a much quicker rate when under way than when at anchor, probably just because the stern sits lower when under way). 


The amount of water is completely manageable (max about 30 litres per day, and we have pumps on board that can handle 3000 gallons per hour!!) but there is obviously concern about setting sail across the Pacific with a leak through an unknown source - so we have decided to pull the boat out of the water to investigate further.


So ithe boat is being hoisted out of the water here in Panama tomorrow, probably for about 3 days - we're moving into an airbnb that we've found.


We're very uncertain that we will be able to find the source of the leak, but at the very least we will get reassurance that there's nothing structurally wrong nor any risk of any leak getting worse


At least a jammed seacock can be changed at the same time, and the bottom cleaned in preparation for Galapagos. But v expensive, and means we will miss a few days in Las Perlas (and maybe have to miss Las Perlas altogether), but better safe than sorry.


But hopefully in a few days we will have resolved the engine starting issue, we have repaired sails, the solar panels will be working, and we will have a dry boat once more. And it will have a clean bottom!


It has surprised us not only how much maintenance our boat is needing, but how much maintenance all the boats are needing, regardless of size or age - there are hardly any boats that haven't had significant problems of one sort or another, and a number with much worse problems than us.


But everyone is helping each other out, it gives massive confidence how much support there is and how many really knowledgeable people there are to help, and how generous they are with their time



Add comment


4 months ago

Rich wishes he was with you !! He loves problem solving !
Have you checked the stuffing gland ? He says you’ll have checked that but he’s working out your problems in his head , I’m listening obligingly ( like I understand the first things about boats !)
Good to get the boat out and you guys give your legs a rest on dry land for a bit !
Good luck xx
Getting the boat out

Sarah Barnes
4 months ago

I guess there’s some consolation that most other boats are having issue to! I’ve no doubt in your joint skills that you’ll be back safely on the water with your ‘challenges’ sorted. I did try to catch you going through the canal on the live webcam but forgot to refresh your position and missed you by an hour or so! Doh! We’re all good here with the wood burner on whilst it snows! Des is off walking with the Thursday night lads tomorrow… with waterproofs! Good luck with your repairs/ maintenance, keep safe my friends xx

Create Your Own Website With Webador