Changes All Around!

September 20, 2012

Ole was contacted at the last minute to switch to the Azamara Quest for this contract…long story…but as usual everything worked out for him to join the ship in Barcelona.

It’s pretty empty here at the dock, with Rick and Goldene from Magic Places and Rick on Cape Star the only folks on the dock. The good news is that I do have company whether I want it or not – there’s a black cat on the dock who’s lived here on his own for nearly 11 years, scrounging and ingratiating himself with whoever strolls down the dock to feed him. In terms of feral cats, “Slacker” has it made. It’s clearly HIS dock…none of the other 40 feral cats venture down here except a timid little tabby named “Debbie” who Slacker seems to tolerate. [Read more…]

Back Aboard Emma Jo in Mazatlan

August 20, 2012

After 5 weeks in Norway, with Ole working like a lumberjack felling trees, chopping kindling, ripping down a storm-damaged pier with his bare hands, and generally buffing up with physical exertion, I was laid up with a bad back, lending not much more than hanging curtains, keeping the place clean and Ole fed, and “oohing and aahing” at the displays of manly skill.

We got back to Mazatlan to find Emma Jo in fine shape, and Ole impressed with the galley refit and general state of the work. He, of course, had his own punch list of little things for Marine Services Mazatlan and Rick to touch up…but all in all, she’s looking like somebody cares about her.

Ole’s got just a couple of weeks here, then he’s off to work again. I’ll be alone on the dock, pretty much, until the cruisers start coming back south in early November.



June 1, 2012

Splash Day

Splash Day

After 10 weeks in the yard, getting the bottom stripped, barrier-coated, and painted…and the galley torn apart and rebuilt…and the master stateroom demolished to make way for high-tech water tank repair…and new wall coverings in the master stateroom and bath…and new non-skid on the main deck…and a brand new paint job on the blue trim…Emma Jo was launched and motored to her temporary home at Marina Mazatlan.

It went as smoothly as it should have after 10 weeks on the hard…the starting batteries were dead (which we discovered while in the slings in the lift and about to back out); the electrical system was screwed up, with switches in the wrong place and mislabeled; and the mysterious workings of the valves that control the freshwater system onboard led to just hooking up to shore water; and the galley finish work wasn’t finished. [Read more…]

Deconstructing Emma Jo

April 15, 2012
On the Hard, Mazatlan Marine Services
Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico

Demolition is always way easier (and much more fun) than actually fixing things, as the following photos will show.

Galley Chaos

Galley Chaos

Repainting Stripes

Repainting Stripes

First, we covered every conceivable (and some unconceivable) surface with drop cloths, cardboard, and duct tape.

Then, they ground off all the bottom paint, right down to the bare fiberglass, took off the blue stripes, cut out the patches of damaged fiberglass on the fly bridge, and ripped the non-skid off the entire main deck. Dust everywhere.

Next they tore out the galley – bare wood and gaping holes everywhere. [Read more…]

Ixtapa — A Mexican “Fantasy”

February 24, 2012

Resident Crocodile at Marina Ixtapa

Resident Crocodile at Marina Ixtapa

After a long day of doing absolutely nothing in Zihuatanejo Bay, we spent a night with zero wind – which means the swells had their way with us all night.

And since we’ve got to repair the anemometer (requiring a trip up a ladder to the top of the mast) and the galley hot water, we decided to move 5 miles along to Marina Ixtapa.

It’s a lovely, sheltered place that requires a bit of surfing to get in – but once in, there was barely a ripple for the two nights we spent there. (Except for the ripple of the resident crocodile’s wake…) [Read more…]

“Repairing Your Boat in Exotic Locations”

February 23

Ah, boating. Defined as “repairing your boat in exotic locations.”

Acapulco Harbor

Leaving Acapulco Harbor

We hadn’t even cleared Isla Roqueta off the entrance to Acapulco yesterday when we heard a mysterious bang (not the kind of thing you really look forward to hearing on a boat while you’re underway).

A quick run through the salon and the sound of rushing water…under the sink!  The hose between the hot water tank and the kitchen sink blew, and fresh (thank god) water was spraying all over under the sink. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but it has to GO somewhere, so it went down, through the acoustic overhead in the engine room, and under the cabinets and into the carpet in the salon. [Read more…]

Haulout and Repairs in Shelter Bay

Shelter Bay Marina

With the advice we were given from cruisers who have had experience hauling out here in Shelter Bay, we approached the haulout with a firm game plan – in on Monday the 26th, out on Friday the 30th. We came prepared with our own paint, supplies, drop cloths, rollers, masking tape, spare parts, sandpaper and what-all, needing virtually nothing from the yard. We asked if help was available for hire, thinking if I was going to take a trip to Seattle for the family, Ole would be faced with a mountain of a boat to scrape, sand and paint. We were assured help is available for hire, just not very available, as they are the same guys that operate the travelift and pressure washer.

Ole and the forbidden cats, relaxing after a hard day in the yard

We left the slip at 9:00 am, and were up on the blocks by 10:30 on Monday, as planned. Boy, were we overdue for bottom paint! The pressure washer plus the monthly cleaning we’ve had done since we arrived in Panama pretty much took off all that was necessary, leaving just a few patches of stubborn barnacles to hand-sand or grind off with the machine. The running gear looked fair to good, requiring a couple of days of serious machine grinding to tame the calcium. The yard guys were not available to help on Monday, so while Ole did the majority of the grinding work, I moved us and the cats into the hotel rooms above the marina offices. Note – while there is nothing in the literature that forbids pets from living in the hotel, they weren’t too happy. However I’m a believer in “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to animals…begging forgiveness is easier than getting permission.

Tuesday opened with rain squalls, so the yard guys were not available. We needed a couple of things (zincs) from Colon, so I was able to catch a ride in with one of the guys here, get escorted round to the grocery, hardware, marine, and battery stores and pick up what we needed. We decided it was best for me to go on up home to Bremerton and be with the family, which was in retrospect the only decision to have been made.

Tuesday night, we realized that if we had relied on the yard’s help to prep and paint the boat, we would have been out two days with none. Luckily, the guy I caught a ride in with had been using independent help on the two boats he had here, and wasn’t using them Wednesday or Thursday, so for the exorbitant rate of $40 A DAY plus $10 per guy per day to the yard, Ole hired them to scrape and paint, and polish stainless. He opted to stay out one more day, getting back into the water smoothly on Saturday, finding no major surprises.

Getting Ready to Leave Bocas del Toro

We left Independence at 1:00 pm on October 3, arrived at the hotel at the Rome airport and were checked in by 2:00. Because the Hilton provided complimentary shuttle bus service into Rome proper, we opted to hop on and do a quick (hah!) walking tour past the highlights. We’re sure glad we did – the bus let us off in the old district a 10-minute walk from the Coliseum, and in just under five hours we managed the Forum, the Vittorio Emmanuel Palace, Mussolini’s Palace, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and pasta at a local sidewalk café. Next time we’ll have to come in a few days early, or leave a few days later, to take advantage of seeing the insides of all of these wonders!

After flying from Rome to Madrid, to Guatemala City, to Panama City, and overnighting at our favorite little Hotel Milan in the City, we took the early morning puddle jumper on October 5 to get back to Bocas and Emma Jo. We were delighted to be met at the airport by Brian, our boat-sitter, cat-uncle, and chef extraordinaire. He helped us catch the marina lancha, and joined us for coffee and a de-brief. We sincerely don’t know how we could manage to spend so much time away from Emma Jo without him. It’s great not only to leave the boat with someone who knows enough to call in help when systems fail, but who also enjoys and spoils the cats rotten. The girls were upset to see him leave!

We spent the first few days going through every locker and cupboard below to sort out our things, determining which could be laundered or aired and which could be given away. Our rule has become “if it’s not used within two years, it’s not useful.” The ladies at Bocas Marina had first crack at the bags – then they were given to a local charity.

I took the bus to David for a couple of days to get the requisite annual medical checkups due a woman of my age…and given the current political climate in the US, was grateful to be in Panama. All labs, plus a visit to the Gynecologist, Radiologist for mammogram and ultrasound, General Practitioner for checkup, then ultrasound for thyroid and consultation with the Radiologist and an Endocrinologist – all done in less than 6 hours, all results in, prescriptions written and filled, grand total: $300. I can only imagine what it would have cost back home, and the $300 wouldn’t even have covered my deductible! I also got the chance to ride out to Caldera and look at the progress on our house – foundations are almost ready to pour, corner columns are up, and the lot is leveled. If all goes well, we should be able to have Christmas there next year! A clean bill of health and a pleasant bus ride back found Ole up to his armpits in the forward cabin.

This boat was built in 1986, and the wall coverings of choice for a semi-luxury cruiser like this was textured vinyl – after 23 years, the last five of which have been in the tropics with the portholes open and occasional sea-spray, the vinyl had begun to peel away at the seams, allowing for the growth (and smell) of mildew to permeate the forward living spaces. We did a lot of research about alternatives – and found online what we hope will be a great solution: textured, paintable fiberglass. The product goes up like dry-hung wallpaper, and can be painted 10-12 times before it loses its texture. It’s mold and mildew-resistant, and the primer and adhesive contain mildew-killing agents. It comes in one-meter-wide rolls of 50 meters length, so we ordered an entire roll, planning to do all of the vinyl surfaces over time. Ole had stripped and masked the forward cabin, and I got back in time to help him prime the surface and hang the product. It’s a small space, relatively – but it’s a boat. Given the complex curves of the hullside, our relative inexperience at wallpaper hanging, and limited selection of tools, it took just about a day and a half to get it up. We let it dry for a day and a half, then ventured into the hardware store in Bocas and found, to our amazement, custom color mixing of Glidden acrylic latex and rollers and edging tools to make the paint go up in less than four hours. We picked a color from memory that we hoped would go with the yellow, beige and cream swirl pattern of the overhead vinyl – and got an almost perfect color match. The shelf and trim were put back up (again, damn those complex curves) along with all of the hardware – and it looks like a new boat! (Smells much better, too.) The next space to tackle will be the master head – small space, small pieces to hang, but more fussy cutouts for the portholes, shelving and shower. We’ll tackle the master stateroom last, as it’s not in very bad shape. If you’d like more information, drop us an email at Pedersens at emmajo dot net and we’ll forward our contacts to you.

Another great surprise on our return was the addition of a canvas and upholstery business right at the marina. We were able to take our pilothouse cushions and the ten yards of fabric we had purchased last year over to the seamstress and have all of the cushions redone within a week for less than $200. What a country.

While I painted the forward cabin, Ole kept busy installing new starting batteries for the engines, and fixing the motor on our pilothouse CruiseAir conditioning unit. What a project – Ole’s motto being “somebody had to put this together; therefore somebody HAS to be able to take it apart!” Like the boat, the a/c unit is at least 23 years old. To get at the motor, he had to go through the fan, grinding out an opening in two opposing fan blades to be able to get the allyn wrench down to the motor housing. That project done, he installed a third water pump such that for a few hours, we actually had three fully functional air conditioning units!

With all projects done, we figured we’d have a couple of days of local cruising and anchoring overnight to test all systems and make sure we were good to go for our 140-mile passage to Colon and Shelter Bay for haul out later this month. But Friday, October 16 was a rainy one so we opted to shorten the shakedown and spend a last Friday night at the Calypso Cantina to listen to music and say goodbye to our friends and acquaintances at the Marina. Bless Dyllan and Darian – they persuaded Patrick and his friend, Kevin, Andy the Drummer, and a local bassist to let me sit in for a few – gave my last official performance of gin-fueled blues singing to thunderous applause (these people are easily amused).

Saturday morning, October 17, we cruised over to Starfish Beach and found everything in order – including the fact we had the place to ourselves for the first time ever. The weather was overcast, and with the breeze, almost cool! We sat up on the sundeck for dinner, and enjoyed the quiet time out.

Sunday we cruised about two hours down to Isla Solarte to pay our last visit to Brian, thanking him again for his help, and touring the great digs he’s secured for himself while he’s between cooking jobs. He’s refinishing some wood on a 38-ft sailboat owned by the owner of an honest-to-goodness villa on top of a hill, with a sweeping view of sunrises and sunsets, walking path, private marina, and covered veranda. And bless his heart; he’s got a little apartment in the villa complete with a six-burner gas stove for cooking. It was so great to see that he’s taking care of himself well – and was so delighted to share his good fortune with us. We ferried him over to the boat so he could say goodbye to the cats:

We had planned to leave Monday morning, October 19, but although the weather forecast was for calm wind and seas, there was an ugly looking cell of thundershowers right over Bocas del Toro. We postponed our departure until Tuesday morning, October 20. We have had a wonderful time here in Bocas del Toro, meeting some wonderful and eccentric people, feeling very safe and secure, and enjoying some fine cruising. We will miss this place.

From a Shitty Job to the Lap of Luxury…

The first week in July saw perhaps the most gruesome task yet on Emma Jo – Ole wrestled with 50 feet of 23-year-old sanitation hose, replacing it with the newest, heaviest duty hose we could find.  I’ll spare you the pictures.  We’ve vinegared, perfumed, disinfected, and aired both heads since we bought the boat in 2004, from a broker who SWORE he had replaced all the sanitation hoses…but in vain.  When Ole removed the hoses, we understood why.  Suffice it to say that when the opening is only the size of a knitting needle in most of the 50 feet, there is not enough perfume, disinfectant, or vinegar in the world to deal with the aroma.  After a sh*tty day’s work, the difference is miraculous.  Lesson learned:  NEVER trust the broker on a used boat.

We left Emma Jo in the good hands of Brian Swann, our boat-sitter and cat uncle extraordinaire on July 9, heading for Rome via Bocas del Toro, Panama City, and Madrid, arriving Rome Airport in the late afternoon of Friday, July 10.  We met up with a couple of the guys from the ship and had a wonderful buffet Italian dinner and the most expensive martinis ever (at 11 Euros).  When we arrived at Independence in Civitavecchia on Saturday the 11th, Captain Teo was waiting for us way up on Deck 5, hollering a welcome.

Ole settled back into the work routine, and I settled into the reading routine, punctuated by a few self-taught watercolor painting lessons.  Figured that since I’m relatively idle and alone while on Independence, I’d use the time to explore self-expression.

It was wonderful to see Europe again!

Generator Woes in Bocas

Within about 24 hours of our arrival home, our “to do” list grew to over 30 items – and by the end of the month we were up to 38. The biggest challenge is getting parts for the generator, which pooped out on us before we left Emma Jo last March. Ole worked like a champ, bringing just about every spare part known to Westerbeke home in his suitcase and going through the process of elimination to find the right broken part. Murphy’s Law struck – the broken part was not among the spares he brought.

We’ve been very happy with the services of Alberto at Marine Warehouse in Panama City – within just a few phone calls and emails, he had located the parts Ole thought he needed and had them air freighted to Bocas within a week. Ole put them on, and the generator stubbornly refused to start. He then called the Westerbeke authorized service guy in Panama, and got the typical “cha cha” response – if we deposited money into his bank account, he would then be able to investigate finding us the right part. Ole employed the aid of Keyving, the local electronics guy here at the marina, to help troubleshoot further, and by working “a connects to b which connects to c,” they realized they couldn’t fix it. Frequent calls to the authorized service guy finally produced the answer that he could take the bus to Changuinola, a water taxi to Bocas, and would require expenses plus a $200 deposit on the work up front – and that since he didn’t know what part was missing, he wasn’t even bringing any parts. Wrong answer. So we got back in touch with Alberto, who located the replacement electronic “brain” of the generator that tells it what temperature it is…and of course, this being Panama, customs is on strike. We think the part is in Panama City but it’s currently sitting in an envelope at the customs warehouse waiting for the strike to be over. So we charged through the list.

We’ve varnished, cleaned canvas, investigated mysterious electrical problems, cleaned, polished, and sanded. We’re down now to about 12 on the list, some of which projects require supplies we just can’t get until this fall when we get to Colon. With just 9 days left until Ole has to go back to Independence, what gets done gets done — what doesn’t, doesn’t. At least we’re not sinking.