Cartagena:  in and out; BEHEMOTH’s surgery; perseverance. 

February 12, 2023

It has taken me a while to post this.

In-and-out refers not to my short visit of Cartagena in early January but to BEHEMOTH’s short stint on the water.  Juan David and l landed in Colombia mid-morning on Saturday January 7th.  We stayed for three nights at Casa Don Sancho, a small boutique hotel in the old city; exceptional service, highly recommended, it even has an open bar so you can prepare your own drinks like at home.  BEHEMOTH was scheduled to be launched on Tuesday.  The plan was to move to the boat that day and sail away on Wednesday.  It didn’t happen.  

Saturday afternoon we met BEHEMOTH at the boat yard for the first time.  As you can imagine, I was jubilant.  Folks at the yard had done a good job varnishing, polishing, painting, and doing some repairs to the deck’s teak.  As you can see in the pictures, she is very beautiful.  The first task was to empty the forward cabin for JD to sleep in.  All the sails and things like life-vests, cushions for the cockpit, fishing gear, and the wheel were stored there.   We also wanted to get a sense of what else was on the boat and where. We spent some time opening lockers, drawers, and floor boards. There were boat parts, tools, new carpets, cleaning supplies, plenty of Ziplock and garbage bags, lamps, adaptors, sheets, blocks, and more.  Inside the cabin it was hot – 85F/35C – even with the boat’s fans on and I made a note to buy a couple more.  

Sunday and Monday we spent a few more hours at the boat installing the dodger and bimini, sorting out the halyards, and running sheets.  On Monday afternoon we had a storm and discovered a couple of leaks through the hatches over the saloon and galley.  I also noticed that the blue stripe on the hull would need a new coat of paint and the defense that runs through it some new varnish. We would have to wait until Wednesday to put the boat on the water.  

Still, on Tuesday we left the hotel and moved to BEHEMOTH.  JD wasn’t convinced about moving to a boat on the hard in a boatyard, but I think he enjoyed the experience. I had bought some groceries and two large fans.  I installed them to get the air moving inside the cabin, but they didn’t last long.  I had forgotten, or simply didn’t think about it when buying the fans, that BEHEMOTH is wired for 220V when connected to shore power.  Cartagena, and therefore the fans, run on 110V.  The first night on the boat was hell.  We also didn’t install the mosquito nets on time and several slept with and fed on us.  

Things improved on Wednesday.  I bought a new fan that was connected with an extension to the 110V supply.  BEHEMOTHS cabin is quite spacious and during the day we did some, non-boat related, work. At night we had drinks in the cockpit listening to music and ordered some food.  We slept well that night and BEHEMOTH went on the water the next day. 

The first thing I did when she was docked was to turn on the diesel engine.  Nothing.  We thought it was a problem with the batteries – and yes, all batteries would have to be replaced eventually – but the issue was more serious.  The engine wouldn’t turn; it was seized.  A mechanic came and quickly removed the engine cover and injectors.  They were all rusted, corrosion had spread like cancer. He speculated that some salt water might have entered the engine through a leak in the water pump. Under normal operation nothing might have happened, but the engine hadn’t been used for over three years.  Salt water had plenty of time to induce a fatal chemical reaction. 

We spent a pleasant night at the dock still not knowing the magnitude of the problem. The next day BEHEMOTH went back on the hard and on further inspection the mechanic indicated that she would need a major surgical intervention.  The engine had to be removed for repairs.  Just taking the engine out and installing it again would cost USD 5,000, including some carpentry work to remove parts of the galley. The cost of the repairs couldn’t be predicted, it would depend on what would be discovered. 

I wrote to Vincent, the previous owner,  who until that day had been very helpful answering the many questions I had.  I told him about the problem and the fact that, had I known the engine wasn’t working, we would have agreed on a different price.  He never replied.

On Saturday we flew back to Quito and on Sunday I started my journey back to Bangkok with a stop-over in Washing DC to recover Woland.  The fly over the Atlantic, Africa, and Asia was long but uneventful. I was disappointed with the outcomes of the whole trip.  Woland never made it to Ecuador and BEHEMOTH never made to the marina. 

In retrospective, I should have asked a mechanic to go and inspect the engine.  The surveyor could have seen it was seized but he didn’t try to turn it and I didn’t ask.  Now that the engine has to be removed I have decided to install a new one.  I initially thought about a Yanmar, but people at the boatyard were not able to find one in the local market.  They tell me there is a company distributing Volvo Pentas but at the time of this writing they haven’t been able to obtain a quote.  I hope this is going to be resolved next week.  

In the meantime, I have ordered new batteries, four AGMs of 205 AMPs. Over the next couple of months I will be busy with work including trips to Tunisia, Morocco, Austria, and Mauritania.  I won’t be back to Cartagena until late May, so there is time to sort things out.  Natalia is planning to come with me, and the goal remains sailing BEHEMOTH to Panamá and across the channel.  Perseverance.  That’s what it takes.      

PS:  This post is mapped to Cartagena, but I am currently writing from Huahin.  We came on Friday to spend the weekend at the beach with Woland.  He was missing the freedom that comes with life by the sea.  We went for a long walk at the beach this morning. He enjoyed it very much. He is now sleeping by my side…   

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