It was visions of waves such as these that kept Liz from losing it while in Panama City preparing her boat for crossing the Pacific.
ferent languages and flew many different flags. There were boats from Poland, Austria, Germany, Australia, Ecuador, England, France, China, Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand — I even saw a boat from Budapest, Hungary. On my sail down to Panama City, my 'To Do' and 'To Buy' lists had grown to intimidating lengths. What's more, everyone had me convinced that this would be my last chance to get anything I would need for many months. Veteran South Pacific cruisers warned of exorbitant food prices and limited boating supplies as I headed west. So I not only had to get Swell ready for a very long passage, but had to purchase everything I thought I might possibly need. "What if all my pens run out of ink?" I worried, tossing a 12-pack into my basket. At the top of my list was installing a water bladder in the forward cabin, which would give me 20 extra gallons of
emergency water. I optimistically dove into the project, installing the bladder, then heading to the hardware store for hose and fittings. The project seemed nearly complete when I made a disturbing discovery while fishing the hose under the sink in the head. A small amount of seawater was entering from somewhere and trickling into the bilge. I initially blamed it on the leaky manual toilet pump that was begging for new Orings, but it soon became obvious that the source was in the area of the head's seawater intake thru-hull. That discovery postponed the bladder installation, and I spent half a day becoming extra intimate with the space under the head sink in hopes of finding the source of the leak. First, I tried tightening all the fittings and reclamping the hose to the barb — but it wasn't easy.
The one-foot by one-foot opening to get at the thru-hull was just big enough to squeeze my upper body into so I could get enough leverage to pull, twist, or yank on the fittings and hoses. After a lot of awkward contortions, I had retaped and retightened every junction fitting and reconnected the hose with an extra clamp. But when I turned the thru-hull handle, it was back to drip, drip, drip. Returning to the cavern beneath the sink, I took apart everything that I had just reassembled, and resumed my search for the source of the leak. I finally managed to get my fingers around the thru-hull valve — and felt a sliver of a crack on the opposite side. Ah ha! After carefully turning the valve with my vice grips, I found the cause of the leak — a crack in the cheap plastic valve. Seawater would continue to seep into Swell for the next two days while I tracked down a replacement valve. Steve from Soulmate offered one of his spares after I made a request on the morning net. He wouldn't accept a penny for it — and even threw in the latest copy of Latitude! Replacing the old valve meant plugging the opening from the outside so the entire ocean didn't come in when I made the switch. I shoved earplugs deep in both ears and plunged into the murky Playita water. Using a hammer and a wooden plug, I sealed the hole. Once back on the boat, I could hear Chariots of Fire playing softly in the back of my mind, as the project was surely nearing completion. I gloated that I'd fixed the problem myself with only a little advice, and hadn't even had to haul the boat. In fact, I was doing a little victory dance as I boiled some hot water to soften the still old hose to make it easier to slide on the new thru-hull fitting. Once back in the head cavern, I What's chronological age have to do with it? Based on her enthusiasm and passion, you could argue that Liz is the younger spirit. MCKENZIE/SWELL
PHOTOS COURTESY MCKENZIE/SWELL
The July 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.