Monday, October 24, 2011

A Hobo Canal Transit

This is Captain Morgan preparing for his first transit of the Panama Canal. Morgan (that’s what his friends call him) owns the Krogen 42 trawler Hobo, out of the Pacific Northwest.
hoboIMG_9200 Hobo dressed with her Sunday best tires.
Morgan’s assistant, Capt. Larry on the left and our first days Canal advisor lining up the first lock. Now I know that my blog reader is probably getting bored with Canal Transit stories. But it is my blog, and I’m just not getting bored going through the Canal. This thing is just a marvel of 100 year old engineering. Taking a boat through the modern shipping cross roads of the world just can’t be boring. And risking body parts while you do it adds to the rush.
hoboIMG_9207 Lining up for the first lock. With a tourist boat in front and behind him a Sportfisher.
The bulk carrier Nord Taipei went into the lock next to us at Mira Flores. We kept hearing her name on the radio and were surprised when we saw the actual spelling. Lena was sure it was the Nord Type-A. Some hyper, Viking crew.
hoboIMG_9221  The Canal walls do get slammed on occasion by the big ships. Here’s a little repair work going on.
hoboIMG_9278 Steve, Larry’s brother, tending the bow lines with me.
Another Lake Gatun sun rise, perfect for waking the howler monkeys.
Captain Morgan, with assistants' Larry and Lena, extremely proud of the present he left on Canal property on the shores of Lake Gatun.
Captain Morgan watching the port wing, Captain Howard, our advisor for the second day, and Captain Captain, aka Larry, setting up to go into the last set of locks.
Fun crew, good food, no drama, and we ended the trip with the same number of fingers as we started – a good transit.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Not All Canal Transits Get the T-Shirt

In the blog a few days ago about bringing Kokomo through the Canal I mentioned the Cat above that was ‘stuck’ in Lake Gatun. Everyone on board Kokomo had all kinds of bizarre explanations as to why no one seemed to be onboard. Last night the Cat got towed into the anchorage here by a Canal pilot boat. They dropped their anchor just behind Jeorgia. I did my best social-butterfly routine and went over in my dinghy. I wanted to make sure they put out a decent scope on their anchor line, as the bottom here is soup mud and quite a few boats have dragged anchor.
The tow in from the lake and through the 3 down locks cost $4,000. Before the Canal would pick them up they needed to put up a $5,000 cash deposit. Something that isn’t easy when your ATM will only dispense $500 a day. So why did they need a tow? It was due to an ugly lock up. They were in the third up lock at the Gatun Locks. A tug was tied to the wall, then the Cat tied to the tug and monohull tied to the Cat. Close ahead was freighter. When the freighter started to move out of the lock, they gave it close to full power. One of the crew on the Cat was filming when he saw a massive turbulence headed his way. When the big ships turn their props in the lock, they are so close to the back of the lock and take up so much of the side of the lock that there isn’t anywhere for the water to go. The wave essentially folded the monohull under the Cat’s outer hull. Then the 3/4 inch bow and stern lines on the Cat parted. Then the line from the monohull to the tug went under the aft end of the Cat and took out both of the Cats saildrives (propellers). Ouch! The Advisor had already called for an All-Stop in the locks, but the damage was done. The monohull went on to slam into the opposite side lock wall.
A few days latter they had a formal hearing at the locks, lawyers and all. They are still waiting to see if the Canal authority will cover the damage. Rumor has it that the Canal pays out more on the occasional damage claim for yachts than they take in for all the yachts.

Some more Nigeria Pics

Asabe, me and Paulina after a succesful meeting with the hospital administration_sm
Asabe, Chris and Paulina after a successful meeting with the hospital administration.
Paulina and I in the Chief Medical Directors office at the hospital_sm
Paulina and Chris in the Chief Medical Directors office at the hospital.
Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital- where we are working_sm
Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital- where we are working.
Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital- where we are working_sm_close
In front of the hospital
in class_sm
In class
demo in class_sm
In class demonstration
More class demonstrations
dancing and singing_sm
Another dancing celebration

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Day at the Office, Nigeria Style

Chris is working for 3 months in Kano in Northern Nigeria. This is the Muslim dominated portion of Nigeria. The project trains midwives in advanced life-saving skills. Here’s a photo essay of a day at the office.
outside the family planning clinic_sm Outside the Family Planning Clinic, Kanos
a helathy mom and baby preparing to go home- oiling the baby a form of washing in a place where clean water is scarce_sm
A healthy mom and baby preparing to go home. They are oiling the baby, a form of washing where clean water is scarce.
one of the trainers Umar)sm
Umar, one of the trainers
a proud trainer (R), healthy mother and baby, and one of our faciltators in training, Asabe (L)_sm
A proud trainer (R), healthy mother and baby, and one of our facilitators in training, Asabe (L)
our disinfection area for cleaning instruments between deliveries_sm
Disinfection and Cleaning area.
Angie teaching how to manage post-partum hemorrhage- not the high tech training tools we have_sm
Angie teaching how to manage post-partum hemorrhage- note the high tech training tools. Angie is one of Chris' former students at U of Washington.
Angela & Paulina_sm
Angie and Paulina
Angie ties a head scarf the Nigerian way!_sm
Angie ties a head scarf Nigeria style.
at a meeting with the PATHS2 folks_sm
Meeting at the PATHS2 office, the UK based project funder.
another meeting_sm
More meetings.
Paulina and Dr Amina with one of the trainers_sm
Paulina and Dr. Amina with one of the trainers.
a healthy baby!_sm
And a healthy baby.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kokomo Finally Makes it Through the Canal

I’ve been planning to crew on Kokomo, a Sabre 42.5, that Denny and Becky out of Tacoma are taking to the Atlantic for a few weeks now. Its all been a pretty low-key pre-plan. The plan was to go through with the boat they have been buddy boating with for the last year, Sound Effect. We get up early on Monday to go meet our advisor. Sound Effect pulls their anchor and starts off toward La Palyitas, where the advisors board. Denny goes to start the engine and we have Nothin’. Rip off the engine covers and start searching. Check battery wiring, check the solenoid, try to check the starter… The starter on this boat is so buried that you can’t get to it with out dismantling 3/4 of the galley cabinetry. Of course this requires removing the Corion counter top and sink fittings.
We call Flemenco Signal on the VHF to cancel our transit for the day. No problem, just pay an additional $471 and you can reschedule when you are ready. Ouch! Back to dismantling the galley. In the end we found the main positive wire coming out of the starter had its connector broken. Off to my boat to find a proper connector, off to Windfall to borrow a man-sized crimper. We put it back together, checked the starter turned over. Then I left Denney and Kelly to put the galley back together.
They did and decided to start the engine in the afternoon. I get a call on the VHF from Denny seeing if I would stop by and take a look at the engine. It turns over with the starter fine. It just doesn’t start. An hour of tracking down fuel flow and we finally figure out that the solenoid used to stop the engine has its connector miss plugged and it is always in the ‘stop the motor’ position. Re-plug it, start the engine and watch Denny’s face turn from crinkled stress to a calming smile.  
Next day we head out at 6:45am for our transit. At 9 they tell us we are cancelled for the day.
Day 3 we start pulling our anchor and we get a call from Flamenco Signal. Where are you? Your advisor is waiting. We scoot out to the Canal and pickup Jorge. Jorge is a Master on one of the high-tech Canal tugs. Nice guy and very competent.
kokomoIMG_9176 The crew preparing to head into lock one of the Mira Flores locks. You can see the Egyptian freighter ahead of us in the locks and the tug that we will side tie to.
kokomoIMG_9182 The crew on the freighter held up their Egyptian flag to show us where they were from. Your trusty photographer missed it.
kokomoIMG_9179 Here’s Kelley waving our flag and showing them where we were from.
kokomoIMG_9178 A little turbulence in the locks. The goes-up locks are more turbulent than the goes-down locks.
kokomoIMG_9185 The cut was pretty crowded. Here’s a big container ship moving off to our side of the Canal to go around a dredge.
kokomoIMG_9187 Yea, he came this close.
kokomoIMG_9191 Lunch is ready.
kokomoIMG_9193 We spent the night on Lake Gatun, after having a nice swim in the croc infested waters. The next morning was weirdness. You can see above this big Cat tied to the other mooring next to us. The pilot boat has approached and no one comes on deck. The pilot boats starts to honk their super loud horn. No one. They then move the boat almost between the two hulls and start honking and honking. Nothing. The Cat’s dinghy and motor are still on their davits. Then a canal worker comes out of the pilot boat’s cabin with his work vest on and camera with a big lenses. They slowly move the pilot boat all around the Cat, taking pictures at every position. Then they cone over to us and ask us if we have seen anything. We say Nope and they leave. There was no shortage of bizarre theories offered on Kokomo.
Our new pilot, Howard, onboard. He works Canal security. Just before he showed up Becky says from down below, ‘Denny, I smell something’. That something was the alternator self destructing. Off with the engine covers. off with the alternator belts – we’ll run without the alternator for today. No more smell.
kokomoIMG_9196 Flag faux pas. The advisor took one look at the Panamanian flag flying and said no way were we going through the locks with a tattered flag. Here’s Becky bringing it down.
kokomoIMG_9177 Denny relaxing with the lock gates behind him now that he figures we are going to make it through.
Denny and Becky are not really known for being big spenders. They publish their monthly costs at the beginning of each month on their blog. So I was really surprised when they sprung for this quick ride for me back to Panama City from Shelter Bay Marina.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Quote from the Past

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement address June 12, 2005

Friday, October 7, 2011

Got Internet, got News

image 1955-2011
Having free Panamanian supplied WiFi means I actually get to know a little about what’s going on in the world.
He was definitely a game changer and visionary. RIP
Really interesting New York Times article on Somalia pirates and the taking of the British yacht Lynn Rival
Taken by Pirates
Navies from more than two dozen countries patrol Somalia’s coast, burning around a million dollars of fuel per day.
Paul figures it was costing Buggas nearly $20,000 a month to hold them hostage: with around $300 per day spent on khat; $100 a day on goats; maybe a couple hundred more for tea, sugar, powdered milk, fuel, ammunition and other supplies. Then there’s payroll— in the Chandlers’ case, cash for the pirate raiding party and their 30 henchmen who rotated as guards on shore. On top of this come the translators, who charge a hefty fee to interact with the hostages and negotiate a ransom.
After Somalia’s central government collapsed 20 years ago, the 1,900-mile coastline became an unpatrolled free-for-all, with foreign fishing trawlers descending to scoop up Somalia’s rich stocks of tuna, shark, whitefish, lobster and deep-water shrimp. With no authorities to fear, the fishing boats were especially unscrupulous and used heavy steel drag nets that wiped out the marine habitat for years. Somali piracy was born when disgruntled fishermen armed themselves and started attacking the foreign trawlers. They soon realized they could attack any ship and get a ransom for holding the crew hostage.
You’ve heard the saying ‘We’re from the government and we’re here to help you’. Well looks like Google has taken over that position: ‘Trust me, I’m from Google’
Google's "Trusted Stores"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sunnyside Up makes her transit of the Canal

We were scheduled to pickup our advisor at 5:45am. The view above is looking up the Canal (north) toward the Bridge of the Americas as the rain comes in. Needless to say the advisor was rescheduled for 9am, not because of the weather – just because they wanted to get us up early. We drank coffee in the meantime.
sunnysideIMG_9113 And watched the weather get a little more rambunctious.
sunnysideIMG_9140 Freddie, our helpful advisor, showed up. Freddie’s day job is running a Canal dredge.
sunnsysideIMG_9136 Freddie’s day job dredge
As soon as Freddie showed up we took off for the first pair of locks, Mira Flores. We were scheduled for a ‘special lock’, which basically means there are no big ships going through. In our case it was us and the high-tech Canal tug Changuinola. The Changuinola ran along near us in the Canal as we made our way to the first locks. He decided to give us some entertainment along the way.
Here’s the Changuinola doing 360’s in the Canal, just to play with us. These tugs can turn, at high speed, full 360’s. They run forward or backward equally as fast. You’ll probably have to click on the above pic to see the spins. This is what you do when you have a Joystick and 5,845 horsepower. She has 30,000 gallons of fuel and almost 2,000 gallons of fire suppressant foam.
  sunnsysideIMG_9126 Here we are side tied to the tug - inspecting a little bit of a rough landing.
sunnsysideIMG_9115 Coming into the channel just behind us was the USS Rentz (FFG-46) an Oliver Hazard Perry-class of guided missile frigate, homeport Naval Base Dan Diego.
sunnsysideIMG_9117 The Rentz appears to be setting up for a boarding and subsequent attack on the Peace Boat. The Peace Boat is an international relief boat
sunnsysideIMG_9125 Heading into the locks
sunnsysideIMG_9127 When you center-lock in the locks there are 4 line handlers on the sidewalls that throw a tag line down with a big monkey fist on the end. You take the line and tie it to your heavy 125 foot dock lines and they pull them back up to the pier. The bull's-eye target and the high-bar is where the line handlers practice their marksmanship. Twice a year they have a contest.
sunnsysideIMG_9129 Here’s a car carrier and his escort tug passing us along with a southbound sailboat in his wake.
sunnsysideIMG_9138 This is the maintenance yard in Gamboa near the Continental Divide on the Canal. The floating crane is the Titan, one of the worlds largest. It was built in Germany during WWII and confiscated as war booty by the US. It worked in Long Beach for 50 years and then came to the Canal in 1999. It does an easy job of picking up the lock gates and moving them for maintenance.
sunnysideIMG_9139 We got to Lake Gatun in the center of Canal about 2:30pm, normally early enough to lock down to the Atlantic side. This day they were only locking ships up in the afternoon. So we side tied to this giant rubber mooring, went swimming in the lake and drank beer.
sunnysideIMG_9146The calm of sunrise on Lake Gatun rudely interrupted by the screams of the howler monkeys.
sunnysideIMG_9157It wasn’t till 3:00pm that we got our new pilot the next day. He was a young guy, relaxed in his shorts and ready to move. We ended up as the last lock down before they started only doing lock ups.
sunnysideIMG_9151 Passing the tug assisting the ship we will lock down with.
sunnysideIMG_9154 Raining pretty hard as we entered the last set of 3 locks.
sunnysideIMG_9160 Here’s a set of deck loaded power boats taking the easy way through the Canal southbound.
sunnysideIMG_9166 About 30 minutes after you pass through the last locks you enter the inner anchorage in Cristobal. Here’s a Texaco tanker getting some major welding done – you can see the cutting torch sparks in the blow up.
I’m crewing on Kokomo’s transit on Monday. Pretty soon I’ll have this down.