Monday, April 11, 2011

A Man, A Plan, A Propellor, Panama (not quite a palindrome)

‘Vroom ‘  is the sounds we expected to hear as we put the engine in reverse to maneuver into the anchorage next to Porvenir in the Kuna Yala (San Blas) Islands of Panama.  Instead the entire boat began to shake with great fury.  Yikes! This does NOT feel right!  We quickly shut down the engine and rolled out a little genoa to get ourselves into a good position to anchor.  Once the hook was down, Seb jumped overboard to investigate and came up with a very long face.   “Half of our propeller is missing.”

And this happened just as we anchored at a group of islands owned by a the very nobly traditional Kuna Indians.  Not a place where we were likely to find a diesel mechanic, let alone parts and definitely not a new propeller.  Luckily, we arrived with the big Pjotters and the s/v R Sea Kat had arrived in the anchorage earlier in the day.  It was not long before Seb, Kees and Mike were in the water with snorkels and weight belts to see if they could find the missing parts.  But, in 15 meters of water in a large anchorage this was a little like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.   But they went to work and, on the advice of a kind Frenchman named Daniel who also offered his help, lowered a weight on a line to give themselves a reference point to begin the search.  After this they snorkeled in formation in widening circles around the weight and suddenly Mike spotted something square in the sandy bottom.  We are extremely lucky to be friends with an incredibly accomplished free diver (10,000 plus diving hours - Mike’s wife Deana calls him a fish).  Mike free dove (i.e. with just a mask and fins) down 15 meters and came up with a big smile holding the missing propeller blade.  Incredible!  ‘Ummmm, but there is also a rather critical pin…measuring about 1cm in diameter, 10 cm long…”  So, with the help this time of Kees’ diving tank with just enough air to allow the maneuver Mike headed down again and doubly incredibly, unbelievably, came up with the pin.  Hooray! 

So, the plan was to tow the Pjotter with the dinghy into shallower water to reinstall the propeller blade.  There is always a risk that you will drop something when working underwater and the shallower water would make the parts easier to find should this occur.  As Mike was towing us to the shore, his dinghy stalled and as the Pjotter was moving rapidly into shallow water he attempted to restart quickly and ended up breaking the tip of his finger.  We finally got the anchor down and the Pjotter temporarily stabilized.  As Deana swam over carrying a bag of ice for Mike’s finger (we have no freezer on board), Seb and Kees donned their masks, weight belts and fins and started the reinstallation of the prop blade.  Fortunately, they managed to execute this with no further issues, losses or injuries.  Needless to say we all turned in rather early after such an alarming and exciting day.  Seb and I were incredibly grateful at our luck in being able to find and reinstall the parts, and hugely grateful to have such supportive, helpful and talented friends to help us in a time of need.

1 comment:

  1. I think I've heard this story ... Love you guys!