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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Generator Round 1

July 24, 2014

We were still in bed when our first visitor of the day came knocking.  It was Kennedy’s Dad, Domingo.  (Note the nice shirt he is wearing – later it became clear he probably put on his Sunday best to come see us.)  He spoke not a word of English.  Turns out he is the guy with the “high speed dingy” that takes the older kids back and forth each week to the mainland to go to school.  His 20 HP engine is identical to ours.  When Dave told him that we had paid $2000 for ours he was shocked as he paid $4000 for his two months ago.  But Dave told him we had bought ours used.  (Our Spanish is improving!)  He explained (we *think*) that they were hoping for our help in fixing a broken diesel generator at their house, “moto de casa est muy malo”.  Based on Domingo’s description, Dave suspects that either the fuel pump isn’t working or the injectors are clogged.  Melissa suspects that Ishmel had told some of the towns people about watching Dave work on the outboard yesterday, and how impressed he was by our “very clean” engine room aboard Apsaras.  However, for all we know they are asking for help to fix a kitchen garbage disposal.  We told him that we were planning to see Kennedy later in the day and would take a look at the motor then.  Oh, and let’s not forget that the boys promised to look at Kennedy’s daughter’s bad computer too.  We’ve heard that if you stick around these native places too long and show any aptitude there will be a never ending stream of stuff they need help fixing.

Domingo then headed over to Wanuskewin, who purchased one of the wooden bowls Domingo had tried to sell us.  Mike told Domingo that Dave was “excellante mechanico” and that we would be over to their place later in the day to take a look at their motor.

Philip had told us he would take us for a hike to a waterfall this morning.  The waterfall is on the next island over.  The town’s people have run a pipe from the waterfall, under the bay, to the top of the hill next to the school.  This is where they get their fresh water.  But by 11am he hadn’t shown up.  Probably fell asleep at 3am after watching a few of the movies Mike gave him yesterday.  So we set off to anchor in a bay closer to Domingo and Kennedy’s house.  When we got to his bay Domingo came ripping out to tell us to anchor here.  Meanwhile he had to go over to the school and pickup his grandkids.  Melissa would swear that was a chicken he was dragging in the water alongside.  Maybe the salt water helps get the feathers off?

When we got to his house, he had to bring out the boat cards from all his “mucho amigos”.  He apparently prides himself in collecting these cards.  We went through the hundred plus cards and only recognized a couple of boats.

Then it was time to take a look at his motor.  Sure enough in the shed out back he had a practically new generator/welding unit.  He told us it was from Chile and he had only had it for a month before it quit working.

Dave helped him drag it out of the shed to take a look.

It was as Domingo had previously explained.  No diesel was making it to the injectors.  Dave was convinced it was the fuel pump not working.  And these things are not designed for field servicing.  None the less, Dave pulled the unit apart.  The boys would spend the next four hours fiddling with this small part.

Inside the fuel pump was a needle valve.  Dave was convinced it wasn’t working right, and that there was a spring missing.  What happened to the spring we’ve no idea.

However, we also found some small metal flecks inside the pump.  So we speculated that maybe the spring had disintegrated and then then pump just beat it to death.

Dave tested the pump by blowing through it.  Yummy diesel!

It was clear the pump wasn’t activating because the needle valve was closing and not reopening properly – supporting the theory of the missing spring.  So after some more staring at it, Mike went back to his boat and got and got a small spring out of a ball point pen.

They then installed the spring.

And then put the pump back in the motor.  They took the pump out and fiddled with it.  They put the pump in.  They took the pump out.  They speculated that maybe someone had taken the pump apart previously and put it back together wrong.  They had been super careful to keep track of how it was put together when they took it apart the first time.  But maybe someone else messed with it first.  So they started rearranging the order of the washers and orientation of the valve.  They put the pump in.  They took the pump out. 

Meanwhile Domingo looked on.  He was super animated and would spontaneously start chattering on about various things like the fact that Panama’s parks are too expensive and are driving away tourists.  Or how his chickens and turkeys are so much better than those you get in the city because that poultry is raised in tight hen houses and they feed them chemicals as opposed to his free range flocks.

In order to try and save the starter battery, they would often pull the manual start rope as they were testing the unit.  Or when they wanted to get the pump piston to a particular location as they installed the pump.

Then big smiles when the injectors finally started spraying diesel!

They reinstalled the injectors, but alas, the generator still wouldn’t start.  They took it apart and put it back together another half dozen times testing diesel flow at various points.  But no luck.  And by then it was evening time, and the starter battery was running down.  We packed up Mike’s tools and told Domingo we would take the battery back to the boat to recharge it, and would return in the morning to continue working on it.  We never did try filtering the diesel itself.  Domingo had insisted it was good.  But there were those mystery metal flecks, and we know that the pump clogged at least once more during the debugging process.  So we will bring back filters tomorrow and give that a shot.  And who knows, maybe overnight something will occur to the boys that didn’t earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, Melissa amused herself by taking a number of photos of Domingo’s turkeys and chickens.  This turkey seemed fascinated by the camera, and kept puffing up his feathers and poking his beak at the lens.

And this rooster was all about protecting his hens who were all hiding under the bushes in the shade.

As we headed out, Domingo brought us a huge bowl of small limes from his tree.  Fresh margaritas tonight!

When we got back to the boat, another of Domingo’s grown son’s came by in a panga with one of his children.  He asked us for fishhooks (of which we have none), and silicone.  We have silicone, but were hesitant to give that up because we might need it ourselves.  The guidebooks tell you that the natives will ask for fishhooks, fishing line, batteries, and all sorts of stuff that it’s nearly impossible to get way out here without a day long trip into town.  They floated around the boat looking at it with some awe and saying things like “very big boat”.

A while later Kennedy came by with another of his kids in tow.  He brought some fruit that looks like and is sized like oranges, that he called lemons, that turned out to taste closest to limes.

He also brought another mystery fruit he explained you slice open and drain the juice out.  Then you mix the juice with water and sugar for a tasty drink. We have yet to try them out.

And finally he brought some of what he called cilantro.  When Melissa looked at it she told him it wasn’t cilantro.  He insisted it was.  So we tasted it, and sure enough it tastes a lot like cilantro.  We don’t know if it is a different variety or what, but it’s certainly edible. 

We paid him $5 for the produce (no doubt overpaying but we didn’t have any smaller bills.)  And he asked for batteries so Dave found him some AA’s.  He also asked us to radio other cruisers when we get to Panama City and ask someone headed this way to bring him some sandals for his wife and a small backpack, and he would gladly pay for them if someone could bring them.  He then asked if we had any children.  We told him that Dave has one that is 25 years old, but Melissa has none.  He was utterly shocked by this and repeated it back several times as if he just couldn’t believe it to be true.  We learned from Mike and Holly that they got the same reaction from him when they told him they had no children either.

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