Dream Away Update 01-07-2010


I have finally put together the long-promised update.

The three most recent passages, Houston to Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres to Belize, and Placencia, Belize, to Fronteras, Guatemala, can be seen on the Passages Made link.

In the near future, I will be getting the updates out that cover the actual visits in Isla Mujeres and Placencia, Belize.

We have finally reached our destination, and what will be our home base, for the foreseeable future, The Rio Dulce of Guatemala. We are in a marina called Monkey Bay Marina. It is just east of the main town here, Fronteras. The only access to the marina is by boat. The reason for the name of the marina can be seen in the last pictures of the passage, Placencia, Belize, to Fronteras, Guatemala. There is a family of golden-mantled Howler monkeys that live in the area. You really know when they are around, because they are incredibly loud.

We are getting settled in, getting the boat cleaned up, and as usual, working on projects.

I have several things I need to finish, that I did not get done in Texas before I left. I also have to work through all of the failures we have had on the trip down.

The biggest problem is the failed wind generator. I have to figure out a way to get it to the States, get it repaired, then get it back to Guatemala. I will take the wind generator off of its mount, and take it apart to see if the problem is obvious. Perhaps it will only need a very small part that someone can bring down to me.

The problem with the generator raw water pumps are sort of my fault. I did not have time to get all of the spares ordered before I left Texas, and now I am paying the price. I discovered this in Isla Mujeres when I started to fix the leaking raw water pump. Looking closely at the parts list for the generator, it turns out that there are three possible raw water pumps for this unit. The first listed pump, which I do not have, is the pump for which I have a complete spare parts kit for, which is of no use. The second pump is a Johnson Pump. I have a new Johnson pump, but no spares for it, specifically, no spare impeller. The third pump is a Jabsco pump. I have two Jabsco pumps and several impellers for them, but no spare seals. Of course, it is seals that have failed on these pumps. My friend, Paul, is bringing me the two spare impellers for the Johnson pump, and three seals for the Jabsco pumps, that I have ordered. These should keep me in raw water pumps for some time. I will try and sell the spares kit for which I have no pump!

Another issue with the spare parts I ordered for the generator raw water pumps has come up. I specifically sent an email to the company asking about a seal they had listed on their web page. The owner of the company got back to me and said the offering was a box of 12 seals, which I ordered. When the parts arrived, the part number I ordered (thinking there would be 12 Seals) yielded only one seal. When I sent an email back to the parts person, she said the part number was for one seal only. Of course, I wrote back and said the owner of the company said it was for one box of 12 seals. As I suspected, the owner of the company was mistaken, so I have ordered two more seals to be sent to friend Paul to bring to Guatemala when he comes down.

What can I say about the issues with the Jabsco lift pumps? I had an older model of the Jabsco VSR 4.5 GPM (Gallon Per Minute) pump. I wanted to have a spare on board plus a rebuild kit, as this pump is used as my raw water washdown pump and as my lift pump for the water maker, a very important item. When I tried to order a spares kit and a spare pump, I found that West Marine did not sell the Jabsco VSR 4.5 GPM pump anymore, but they had a newer, updated pump that pumped 5.0 GPM. This seemed a good thing, so I ordered this as a spare pump, and a kit to rebuild the original pump (West Marine still sells the rebuild kits for the older model pump). When I received the new pump, I immediately installed the pump to verify operation. I ran a two-hour cycle on the water maker to verify that the new pump worked. When we installed the new pump, we were within a week of leaving Texas, so I did not have time to rebuild the old Jabsco pump. When we left our marina in Texas, and were spending our first night out in Offatt's Bayou in Galveston, listening to the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, the new pump failed while in washdown mode. I was not a happy camper. I went over this issue in the November 8th update, so excuse me for repeating myself.

We were able to get another new Jabsco 5.0 GPM pump from the West Marine in Galveston. The delay caused us to leave on our passage later than I had planned, but we did not have time to replace the old pump with the second new pump, so we left the old pump in the system. We had a weather window to meet, and we were already late.

When we got to Isla Mujeres, friend Jim and I went to work on the pump. We were able to download the instructions, for disassembling the pump, from Jabsco. We installed the second new pump in the system. It lasted about 30 seconds before it started popping the circuit breaker. After four attempts to keep it running, it finally blew the in-line fuse. This was getting very frustrating!! By the way, the older Jabsco pump had been in place and in use for over five years, so at one point Jabsco did build a good pump.

I decided I would not rebuild the original pump. I was worried that we would do something wrong, and then I would have no lift pump for the watermaker. So, we removed the second new pump, and put the original back in place. It was in need of a rebuild, because after running for an hour, it was very hot and had to be shut off.

I will not go into a long story here, but I was able to contact West Marine in League City, where I bought the first new pump, and they were very helpful. Friend Jim, when he went back home to Dallas, took the second failed pump with him and sent it to West Marine in League City. The folks at West Marine were able to locate one of the older 4.5 GPM pumps, and sent it to Jim in Dallas, who gave the pump to Paul in Plano. Paul will be bringing the pump to me in Guatemala. So the saga continues. I will let you know how it goes. Hopefully, the new "old" pump Paul is bringing will be reliable.

I have to install the main engine stop solenoid. The original stop solenoid has failed, so I ordered a new one. There seems to have been a manufacturing problem with the original version of the solenoid, so I ordered the new solenoid, which is a different model. That means there there will have to be some engineering to get the new solenoid on the engine. I did not get a chance to get that on the engine before I left Texas. The main engine is a real bright spot. The engine was manufactured in the early 70's, installed new in the boat in 1980. I know the engine has at least 2500 hours on it. On this trip alone, we put 176 hours on it, and I have not used any oil! What a sweetie!!

Another issue concerns the three Caframo fans I purchased before I left Texas. One is still working. One burned up. Kitty and I were asleep one night in Placencia, and I woke up smelling electrical smoke. I quickly jumped up and started searching for the source. I found that the on-off switch on the Caframo fan in our room was smelling funny and very hot. I had another fan of the same model I was going to use in another place on the boat, so I put it in place of the burned one. The blade on it hit the guard! I loosened the guard, but the blade would not turn as fast as the preceding fan of the same model, a DOA!! I had a Hella spare fan that is probably 8 years old, and has that much use on it. I put that fan in, and now we have air movement again.

I still have some leaks to fix, and they will be the time-consuming issue. I have to remove the forward cap rail, and replace it with fiberglass, as I did with the aft cap rail. When we cleaned out the forward cabin a couple of days ago, we were both surprised at the amount of water that had penetrated the cabin.

Friend Jim and I had spent a bunch of time in Isla Mujeres, re-bedding the supports for the bowsprit, and also the forward name boards. We also re-sealed some cap rail damage I had sustained in Hurricane Wilma. We were confident we had fixed the major leak problems. Read on.

On the passage from Isla Mujeres to Placencia, water entered the forward cabin, and I have no idea how. The passage was not nearly as rough as the Gulf crossing, but we still had leaks. And, I still have a leak over the navigation station area. The fix Jim and I put on the navigation station to keep water from dripping into the electronics in Isla Mujeres worked. I still had leaks around the navigation station. That was underway, with all of the rain we had while hanging out in Blue Ground Range, Belize, we still had leaks around the navigation area, it became obvious we have a bad leak in that area.

I am also working on our WiFi issues. The system we have is not working again, here at Monkey Bay. This problem is really frustrating, as the system seemed to work OK when we were in the states. I have been through the manuals, and the FAQS on the web site, but nothing. I never did get the system to work while we were in Mexico. I did get it working while we were in Placencia. Now it is not working again. I have sent an email to Engenius, the company that manufactures the router and bridge I am using, asking for information. I am not sure what help they will be, as my first email to the support email address came back as a failed delivery. The good news is that they had several other email addresses listed on their web page so I sent a copy of the email to each of those. I have received some good information from the support folks at EnGenius, and John, the manager at Monkey Bay, thinks we may have the problem solved of connecting to the Monkey Bay server. However, we still have some issues with his “hotspot”. We hope to be able to get around them soon.

I am pretty sure the problem we had in Mexico was because I did not realize that we needed to enter the WiFi network password through the EnGenius bridge.

The first problem we were having at Monkey Bay concerned TCP/IP addresses. The network address EnGenius has chosen for their network communication was the same network address Monkey Bay was using, I changed the network address on the EnGenius router and bridge to and, respectively, and now I sometimes have communication with the Monkey Bay WiFi system.

I guess I will stop whining, and get back to some real news. The big news is that Kitty and I have decided to stay in the Caribbean for the next year, and do not plan to do our original plan of cruising up the east coast of the US this summer. We plan to put that trip off for a year, and do the east coast trip in the summer of 2011.

Our decision to stay in the Rio Dulce was made for several reasons. I guess the most pressing issue being that the boat projects need to be done, and they will be time-consuming. I would rather not work the 18 hour days I was putting in before leaving Texas, which I would have to do if we were going to do anything at all down here, and still meet the weather windows for getting to the U.S. in the spring. We are both looking forward to doing some cruising in this part of the Caribbean, and to visiting new places. In order to do the repairs, and the cruising, and the crossing back to FL, I would have to be doing repairs every time we stopped for a day or two. I do not mind normal maintenance, as that is a necessary part of owning a boat. But I'd rather do the major fixing and repairing before we are actually out cruising again, even locally.

We will probably go to Belize and Honduras before the hurricane season officially starts, and cruise in those locations. But we plan to spend the major part of this year here on the Rio Dulce. Boat parts will be a bit harder to get, but we cannot think of a place in the States that would be a good place to go for reasonable costs, except back to Texas, and neither Kitty nor I want to make another Gulf crossing, if we can help it.

We had had a hard Gulf crossing, and the trip from Isla Mujeres to Belize, had had its difficult moments. We spent a lot of time, and money, and stress getting to the Rio. Somehow, it just doesn't seem to make sense to rush through a lot of repairs, and sail back to the States within weeks, especially without getting to see much of this part of the world.

But, we do miss our family and friends. We had plans to see Jimmy and Barbara in Texas, in the early spring, and to roam Charleston, S.C. with Pam and Steve in late April. We do apologize to them for these changes, and hope they understand. We would love to have them, and anyone else who would like to visit, come this way. Just let us know when you could make it, and we can make arrangements. In the meantime, we will be figuring out how to get our children down here so that they can share the adventure with us, and get a feeling for the wonderful lifestyle they have supported our undertaking for all these years.



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