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.

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