They Happen in Threes

(Portobello, Panama)

They say bad things happen in threes. They also say you might not even now you’ve been struck by lightning until things just start acting weird.

When we went to lift the anchor this morning the electric windlass completely bogged down and started tripping out the entire boat’s electrical systems. Crap. Let the trouble shooting begin. Our electrical engineer cruising friend says 99% of the time electrical problems are connections. And up until today that’s been true on Oceanna. So first step Greg accessed the windlass circuit board and began checking/cleaning the connections and ground. After a series of other checks and tweaks the windlass was in regular working order and no longer tripped the boat. So anchors up and away we went.

There was no wind so we ended up motoring over to Portobello. When underway we only use one engine, as the second only adds about a knot of speed and burns twice the fuel. For anchoring though, its much preferred to use both engines. We had used the starboard engine for our short passage and when we went to fire up the port engine as we entered Portobello Bay there was nothing but a pathetic click.

Strike two.

It was now that I seriously started wondering if we HAD been struck by lightning and somehow not noticed. Of course I did not voice my contemplations. Something about saying it out loud might make it true. As Greg set to diagnosing the port engine starter I took Oceanna on loser laps around the anchorage. The good news is the starter was fine, but for some reason it wasn’t getting enough power. He checked and cleaned all the connections from the battery to the starter and went through the rest of starter problem tricks he knows. Nothing worked.

As I started on my third lap we made the call to try to anchor. We picked a spot by Maria and Cathy on Joana and I manned my windlass station. As I pushed the button to drop the anchor the windlass, once again, bogged down and started tripping the boat. With the windlass basically inoperative we loosened the gypsy clutch letting the anchor and chain free fall. Backing up on the anchor to set it with one engine was the next issue. We just ended up doing a goofy hook to the right.

Then strike three hit. Maria and Cathy had come over in their dinghy to see if they could help, and nicely pointed out that our running starboard engine was no longer spitting out water. I immediately killed that engine and we were now bobbing motor-less.

Time to put the Yammy to work! We launched the dinghy and with Maria pulling on one hull, Greg on the other, we set the anchor dinghy style.

Greg and Maria then set to troubleshooting our trio of issues while Cathy and I discussed the merit of staying out-of-the-way unless specifically summoned. For the port engine and windlass Greg inspected and cleaned the main grounding post of the boat. As well as checking out any other connections tied into those systems. In less than an hour he had the engine and windlass back in action. 99% of the time it’s connections every time.

For the starboard engine the water impeller was obviously blown. Since we blew one in the port engine back in North Carolina Greg knew how to replace it and just needed some Greg time alone to get it sorted. The guy really prefers to be left alone to get things like this done, and that was not a problem for me. The girls and I set out to Jack’s Bar in Portobello for a table-banging, toe-breaking-dancing, Ladies Night Out.


Checking the connections on the windlass.


Entering Portobello Bay.


Setting the anchor dinghy style.


A successful set.


Replacing the water impeller on the starboard engine.


The new impeller and the old one blown to bits. You have to make sure you get every little piece out of the heat exchanger or else you’ll have yourself another problem.


Now Lorraine at Jack’s knows how to make a Mojito! Fresh mint picked off the plant beside me. Mmmm.


One of Portobello’s many old forts.

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