You may recall an earlier post where we described a little damage done to one of our daggerboards when we hit a rock in the Las Perlas islands. Well, thanks to some FORMER friends ;-), we now have a landmark in Panama named after us in perpetuity.
We attempted to have the daggerboard repaired in Balboa Panama by the local boatworkers. But they did a poor job and the board did not fit in its trunk very well. We decided to have Shelter Bay redo the repair, and at the same time perform a few other cosmetic jobs – remove old bootstripes and paint new ones, raise the transoms 3″, repair a few gelcoat dings, etc.
These jobs ended up taking a LONG time. This is why it seemed we were stuck in Panama forever and why blog posts were few and far between. We started the work in August and it was not completed until Thanksgiving. We spent one month in the hotel in Shelter Bay while the boat was out of the water (NB: a lot of cruisers remain living on their boat while it is on the hard, but Shelter Bay keeps the cats far from the showers/heads and it is not easy to lift Lucy up and down several times a day, so we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel – it having air conditioning did not hurt). When the boat was put back in – splashed in boatspeak – all the work was finished except the daggerboards. After one more month, the boards were finally ready and we provisioned up and got ready to head back out for more cruising.
However, upon inserting the beautiful new daggerboards back into the boat, they once again were just too thick to slide into their slots. We were crushed that our job was back to square one. Shelter Bay has a good overall mechanic in Victor, a very good paint/fiberglass guy in Ramon and Edwin, the yard manager, does the best he can with the resources he has. Diesel work, general rigging, electronic work and sail repairs are done by journeyman sailors who may or may not be there when you arrive. Also, they may or may not want to or have time to work on your problem. We got big help from Scott and Eddie (the man) as well and Scott’s dog Eddie, Greg the diesel whisperer, and Pierrick. The issue with the Shelter Bay yard, however, is that the owners do not provide the resources to function as a proper yard, yet they hold themselves out as being one.
For example, our daggerboard repair took place outside in a work area with a mud floor, an insufficient amount of gravel strewn around to deal with the mud and old planks lying around to walk on. The area was surrounded by marshy reeds and riven with mosquitoes. One of the workers flicked a giant spider off him one day and they all worked in fear of snakes every day. The structure was mere wooden posts with old jibsails tacked to them to attempt to keep dust out, a leaky, rusty corrugated roof that prevented work during rain (do you think it rains in Panama in the rainy season?) and barely adequate electricity.
Then we moved to an open air area where the ever-present vultures were an ominous metaphor for the entire job. Once the boards were shaped properly, we moved again to the abandoned theater, er I mean sail loft, to hang for painting.
In any event, after another month of work in these conditions, the daggerboards were finally done. It was now two days before Thanksgiving and we desperately wanted to have the holiday at anchor in a pretty spot with our friends. So we ran around frantically for two days cleaning, stowing, provisioning and otherwise getting ready. We got it done and were finally able to escape Shertel Bay.