The week of February 1 was to be an exciting week. We were getting visitors! Dale's cousin Cindi and her husband Rick were traveling from Seattle to spend 5 days aboard Slow Dancer to tour the islands of Bocas del Toro. We had planned to spend the week readying the front cabin for visitors and planning our voyage. A couple of days before their Feb. 1 arrival, Ken noticed that the water pump was going off a bit more than normal. He looked at the water heater and noticed that it was leaking into the bilge. Hmmmm……was it a hose or the heater itself. After a lot of crawling around a small space, it was thought to be the pressure relief valve as well as a connection. After two trips to town to retrieve the hoped for parts, we decided that the best bet would be to order them on Amazon, have them shipped to Miami then on to Bocas. It's a process and takes about two weeks. He tried to slow the leaks and we decided to live with it until the parts arrived.
Meanwhile, Dale was busy cleaning and waiting for the laundry that she had taken up to be washed by the laundry lady. This is usually a 24 hour process. We needed towels and sheets for our company. Bags were taken to the lavanderia on Monday. Tuesday, still not done. Wednesday, still not done. Thursday, still not done. Friday we were given half of our laundry clean and half dirty. We learned in a mixed Spanish/English conversation that the washers were broken. OK…..dirty laundry and company coming. Dale began to wash the dirty laundry by hand in a bucket. Sometimes this is the only way to get clean clothes when you live on a boat. (hug your washer and dryer!) Just before rinsing the clothes, the water stopped. What?? No dock water? Ugh. And we needed to refill our water tank. Using our precious last bit of water aboard, the clothes were rinsed and hung on the life lines to dry.
Living on a boat is tight. All of our spare parts, tools, sheets, towels, etc., etc., etc. are in our "spare bedroom". The day before the visit and while Ken was patching the water heater hose, Dale slogged most of the tools, tubs and miscellaneous into our cabin to surround our bed and take up every little space imaginable . The rest would be moved in the morning as Cindi and Rick would be on the 6 p.m. plane. The next morning we discovered that our one and only "head" (toilet) would not flush. Seriously?? Ken went to work on it and the flush valve immediately broke. Oh no….we have no extra! To the rescue, our good friends, Jim and Laura had a spare. Cool! Ken replaced the old one and still it did not flush. By this time it was almost noon. It was determined that the hose to the holding tank was clogged. Borrowing a "snake" from a fellow cruiser, Ken proceeded to tackle the yucky job of unhooking the hose and snaking it. Unfortunately, the area that this occurred was behind our bed. So all hoses, snakes, etc. had to be hauled over the bed. Remember, all of the things from the front cabin were piled all around our bed, creating a pole vaulting situation. Plus it was hot! 90 degrees! Poor Ken continued to work, but had no luck. Meanwhile, Dale was trying to move the remaining items and clean around tools. PLUS the entire boat reeked of pee! Ugh! This was no situation to bring guests into.
It was only 2:00, if Ken could loosen the clog maybe we could pull it off! Dale's phone buzzes. Text from Cindi…..we are catching an earlier flight…..we will be there at 3! Are we on Candid Camera?? OMG….while we were super excited to see family, we were also freaked out about the condition of our boat. As Ken became more intent on clearing the clog, Dale ran to the showers, took laundry in from the life lines and tried to ready the boat. No use, everything moved had to be unmoved to make room for the repairs.
A water taxi was called to take Dale to Bocas Town to pick up Cindi and Rick at the airport. It was now 20 minutes before touch down. No water taxi. 10 minutes to 3, Dale was becoming frantic to get to town. Here comes a panga! Waving wildly, she hailed the driver. "Hola, you must be my water taxi". "No, I own the restaurant" Ooops. Sorry! "Don't worry, hop in, I will take you to town". Whew! Such a great guy!
Once in town, Dale ran to two hardware stores looking for a new flush valve as the old one that we had borrowed was leaking. Two hardware stores and limited Spanish later, no flush valves. Plenty of water pumps, bilge pumps, etc. but no toilet parts. OK, quickly to the airport. No taxi anywhere. OK, run. It wasn't too far, 1 1/2 to 2 miles in 90 degree weather. Why did I take a shower? Finally to the airport and there were Cindi and Rick. So happy to see them! Now to waste time to give Ken a chance to fix the issues. We walked back to town and headed for a restaurant on the water for Happy Hour. A couple of beers later we tried to call Ken. No answer. Guess we will head back and hope for the best.
We caught a water taxi and headed toward the marina. Our company knew that it might not be ideal conditions when we arrived, but they had no idea how bad it had gotten! Still no luck with the clog, even though Ken had spent the two hours that we were gone trying his hardest. ALSO, a through hull (hole in the boat that is attached to a hose) was broken. Water was seeping in! An employee of the marina donned a wet suit and jumped in the water. He inspected the through hull and borrowed a wooden plug (again from our good friends Jim and Laura) and plugged the hole. Seriously?? How could so many things go wrong at the same time! And still we had pieces and tools the entire length of the pee smelling boat! Sorry guys……talk about roughing it!
Thankfully we were in a marina with a bathroom (not the most convenient during the night!). We cleaned up the boat enough to pass through it and had a nice lobster dinner (purchased from a passing fisherman) in the cockpit. Still Ken continued to work on the clog. The next day we had planned to motor the 1 1/2 hours to another marina on the island of Bastimentos. We would still have a bathroom to use, but also have activities and restaurants. We all took a break and met some cruising friends at a restaurant to watch the Super Bowl. It was a much needed reprieve. The following day (day 3 of the toilet fiasco), Ken suggested that Dale take off with Cindi and Rick on a tour of the island to find the elusive red frogs, sloths and to the beautiful swimming pool.
About that time, Jim and Laura suggested that they help Ken. Wow….the cruising family is always there when you need them! The three of them climbed over the piles of "stuff", tools and bed to remove the 20' hose to the toilet. This hose runs behind a wall, through a cabinet and under the bed to the back area behind a wall. Over the bed and out of the boat they went with this long, clogged hose. At this point, the boat smells even more now if that is possible! They pounded the hose on the dock and eventually broke up the calcium deposit caused by salt water and human urine. Ugh! Then back into the boat and attached, we were in business, so to speak!
The six of us enjoyed a wonderful dinner that evening overlooking the beach and the Caribbean. It was super nice to have things almost back to normal.
We left Red Frog Marina the next morning to check out a couple of winding gaps in the coral and mangroves and ended up at the Chocolate Farm for a tour. We really enjoyed seeing the cocoa trees and all of the plants and animals of their botanical gardens. Afterward we joined our friends on Nilaya at a quiet anchorage and enjoyed a grilled chicken dinner onboard Slow Dancer.
The following day was spent snorkeling the small mangrove island and anchoring at Starfish Beach, where we swam ashore for a beer. We later joined Jim and Laura aboard Nilaya for a spagetti dinner.
The next morning it was back to Bocas Marina and we had to say goodbye to Cindi and Rick. Even with the emergency repairs, we all enjoyed our visit together!