Almost a saga indeed. It has been a week since the rubber coupling replacements arrived from USA. Maxine and I got the old coupling off the prop shaft and reassembled it with the new rubbers, but the clamp locking nut was burred and, try as we might, we couldn’t get the nut to take onto the clamp. Finally I got hold of a couple of mechanics who took the whole caboodle ashore to re-tap the thread on the housing.
Our next problem has been finding roll pins of the correct size for the housing. Every purchasing exercise here requires a noisy, endless taxi trip through dreadful, interminable road chaos. The city is a traffic engineer’s nightmare. If you ever come to Panama, make sure you bring roll pins. There’s a fortune to be made selling them to bunnies like us.
Anyway, now we’ve handed the whole job over to these two laconic American mechanics, Jimmy and Paul. While they sweat and groan in the aft cabin, we swim, clean and sit in the cockpit. I overhaul winches while Little Miss Perfect does very Dutch things with cleaning powders, vacuum cleaners and the like.
Maxine has been her usual tower of strength, pretending that sitting on a mooring beside the canal at Balboa is as romantic and idyllic a cruise as she could ever want. Meanwhile, I just chomp on fluoxetine and feel guilty.
There is plenty to look at – the afternoon light playing on the multi-coloured Gehry museum, the pelicans roosting on the abandoned yacht next to us, the frigate birds, raptors, terns and, of course, those gorgeous little white-winged swallows which sit together on our pulpit holding planning meetings. And then there are the ships. Welcome rain squalls punctuate the blazing afternoon heat.
Balboa is a yacht graveyard of the kind you find all over cruising world, usually at the end of a downwind run, a marriage or an unhappy partnership. Luperon in the Domenican Republic, Cayenne in French Guyana and Mooloolaba in Queensland all come to mind. Here in Balboa there are abandoned sailboats to be had for a song. Some have been sitting at anchor for years. Here the snap deal of the year has to be the Ocean 71, which went at government auction this week for just $28,000. Bags of sails, good motor, fridge, freezer and generator, all winches and running rigging looking OK. Tarted up it should be worth $300,000.