Roatan to Livingston: Nice, Easy Overnighter

May 9, 2013 Posted by Deb


The boat was crippled coming back from Cayos Cochinos and we were with a group of boats that had set a departure for Zero Dark Thirty the next morning. We’ve never been the boat holding up the party before; and we knew we had to scramble to get a new port battery, get the starboard engine starting again, and check out of the country with the port captain, customs, and immigration. To make matters worse, our mechanic contacts were either unavailable or sick.

We immediately went to the dockmaster for Fantasy Island, Jerry, and got a new contact for engine and electrical work. Not only did we reach Pedro, but he dropped what he was doing and met us at Frenchy’s 44 by 3:30 for a ride out to Neytiri. We got a chance to pick up a new battery, and Deb did a bit of last-minute provisioning before he arrived. It seems Pedro loves working on boats and solving problems and our issues seemed more interesting than the large project he was working on. He solved the starboard engine problem as quickly as the prior two or three pros. This time is was a bad connector on a wire. We installed a new battery, tested the port alternator, and Neytiri was ready to go. The charge for his services was around $30 U.S., and we drank beer for another two hours. During the drinking session, he mentioned that the relays as well as the electrical layout for the engines made no sense. That observation loomed large in the next few days.


The group changed plans and decided not leave that night but later the following day. We would stage at Cabos Tres Puntas for a night before tackling the dreaded Livingston bar at around 8:00 a.m. two mornings down the line. Checkout was a comedy if it wasn’t so painful. We had to wait, make calls, wait, visit the airport, and fill out forms, visit offices multiple times in the proper order, and deal with a wide variety of cab charges. Mike on Casa del Mar double checked our passports and the stamped exit date was more than a month off, actually before we arrived. Good catch and we had to arrange for another stamp. Always fun to explain multiple stamps down the road.

Departure was uneventful but we noticed the new starting battery was getting hit with too much of a charge and pulled the terminal quickly. We met Aquadesiac coming out of West Bay and the three-boat fleet sailed off into the sunset. Neytiri sailed initially, Casa del Mar motorsailed the entire trip, and Aquadesiac motor sailed (about 700 rpm lower than normal) and sailed. When we tried to motorsail to catch up a bit, the starboard engine failed to start again. We rewired the port alternator to the original, pre-Pedro configuration and found it was not charging the house bank at all and the starting battery was trying to cook again. After shutting down the alternator completely, we found ourselves with one engine and no means of engine driven charging of the house battery. We would soon be turning on nav lights and the autohelm chewed up lots of amps from the battery. We shut down refrigeration, the autohelm, and all unnecessary energy consumption and hand steered for the first time on this boat into the night. That makes a long night of it. The autohelm is like a third crewmember. Without it and with the off duty crew asleep, it is challenging to take a pit stop, get a drink, check navigation, trim sails, or do anything that requires leaving the helm.

By morning the solar panels kicked in. The lowest battery reading was 12.62 so we had plenty of juice in reserve. We flipped on refrigeration but the autohelm failed for the first time; and we continued hand steering, arriving way behind the fleet in Cabo Tres Puntas at about 2:30. We kicked back and re-read all the guides and their slightly different techniques for tackling the bar at Livingston. We remember well our last crossing 18 years ago and the depth alarms squawking (until we turned them off).

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