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Ship's Log: Updated June 5, 2009

Finishing Phase I of the Waterworks

As of the last update, all we had left to do was wait for the concrete around the pad posts to cure so we could start bolting the wooden frames to the posts and nailing on the floor boards. Then we could put the water tanks on the pads and start collecting that nectar of the gods, rainwater!

Joe and Tom worked very hard to make sure everything was level,

and solidly bolted on.

Then Joe got out the chainsaw and cut the top of the posts flush.

Can this really be Panama, with that bubble right in the middle of the level??

Well wonder of wonders, the water tanks now sit on level pads. Wow!

We gooped on the sealant to keep the marine air from eating the threads and nuts.

Now add and angle the downspouts into the tanks, and we have a working water-catching system! This temporary angling got us through a weekend of torrential rain...

Getting the overflow water away from the house and off the hill, and getting the tank water into the house, are other projects entirely...

Tracy the MET Trainer

Meanwhile, over in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Tracy is hard at work with "the boys," and enjoying every second of it! This is the vehicle simulator he uses. (Note the terrain they are working in...a far cry from the lovely lush rainforests of Panama...)

"OK, I'm strapped in, let's get 'er rolling!"

Here is a picture of some devices that Tracy decided are simply not going to be allowed in the trainers. Anyone know what they are and why they might be a bad idea to have in a large revolving metal canister crowded with six soldiers? Yep, that could put a really bad spin on a soldier's day!

One of the first graduating classes in front of the trainer. Hooah! (That'd be Tracy up behind them all.)

He's still sharing a small room, but with two fewer roommates, so has much more space and privacy, and he is getting quite comfortable there. We usually talk once or twice a day on Skype, so he is still very much a part of Cerro Velero and the building project, despite the distance.

Closing Up the House: Doors!

Although the windows were in, we still needed doors. The David company where we bought our windows does not make doors with screens. Fortunately, a small business in Bocas came to our attention, and we ordered three sliding glass doors, with screens, from them. Sharon thought she'd arrive in Bocas with a launch and pick them up when they were ready. Ha! Shows you what she knows!

The materials for the doors, plus three guys, showed up at the dock on schedule at 9 a.m. on the appointed Monday morning. Amazing! Then they started unloading their truck and loading up the panga (where was the camera for that? Back home...sigh). That took a full half hour. Once at Cerro Velero, everything had to be schlepped up the hill.

Parts, pieces and tools.

The doors were then assembled on site.

Piece by piece.

And installed.

Done! (Now, if only we could get that siding finished...)

Hard Hammering

Never let it be said that a Panamanian doesn't put a lot of effort into hammering...this is one week's worth of effort!

Temporary Waterworks, by Rube Goldberg

The showering system down at the bodega is still pretty primitive, and cold. So Sharon brought the solar shower bag up from Landfall to add a little heat to the end of day rinse-offs. One evening, exhausted, she started re-filling the solar shower bag...and promptly forgot about it. Until the next morning, when she discovered the 350 gallon bodega water tank empty, and the solar shower bag full to overflowing...and then some!

Well, hey! There's all that water now up in the house tanks, right? All we have to do is let it flow downhill to the bodega tank to refill it!

As with so many, many things, that was easier said than done. Given the lack of hoses and the multitude of pipe sizes on hand, getting from one tank to the other took every single length of pipe we had. With, of course, no proper sized connectors.

The water comes out the standard one inch pipe. Then we had to turn it toward the bodega and reduce it to a half inch pipe...

Then back up to one inch, then two inch, then three inch, then four inch...all the while, since we had no other connectors, it had to flow downhill all the way

and be supported all along the way. Sharon kidded Joe that this would be his job until the tank was full: keeping the belly out of this piece of sagging pipe--his shoulder was exactly the right height!

Fortunately, we found a spare length of pipe exactly his shoulder height, so he was relieved of duty...

Then the pipe was tied along the porch railing (the solar shower culprit is seen in the lower right hand corner)...

turns around the corner...with a little stuffing going back down to a 3 inch pipe...they were the last two lengths we had left!

and into the tank!

Well, lemons into lemonade, no problem, right?

You Think You Have Bugs??

Cooking lunch one day, Sharon noticed out of the corner of her eye something moving along the shelf over the stove...and the "thing" grew, and grew, into a mildly curious, very large, cockroach! Yuck!

Well...despite hating to kill jungle creatures in general, she didn't wait long enough to ask it whether it was planning on setting up home, or just exploring and planning to move on... Fair to say it was almost as big as a soda can??

The picture doesn't seem to evoke the creepy sensation she had on first glimpsing it crawling above her lunch...

But this bug, on the other hand, was just so beautiful she had to catch it in an empty jar, take its picture, and then let it move on...

Another seemingly benign visitor...doesn't it remind you of a Star Wars costume? The one worn by the good guys?

And judging by the indentations here, it looks like an early morning toucan got the papaya mere minutes before Sharon was going to eat it for breakfast!

Rainwater Overflows

We had over 78 inches of rain here by the end of May, and much of the beginning of the year is the "dry" season. So we fully expect to exceed our 2500 gallon capacity on a regular basis. One tank filled the first week we had the downspouts aimed into it. So overflow is a serious issue. It can rain for days, and that much water coming off all that roof could easily start a landslide (as it did at neighbor Carl and Mary's last year).

Tracy's idea was to add a two inch overflow pipe at the tank (a one inch overflow comes standard with the tank). So Sharon had Tom drill and add two inch fittings into the top of the tanks.

Tracy's idea was to then go up to a four inch pipe as soon as possible, to get it off the hill quickly.

Execution of that idea was left to Sharon. Whaddya think?

It is temporarily put together, and still needs some fine-tuning, but it looks like it will be functional. We'll add a couple of feet of 4" vent pipe above, and also add the connector for the house grey water down below.

The swamp at the end of the pipe, and all the frogs, will be the beneficiaries!

Let There Be Light

Every night, Sharon walks from the bodega up to the loft to sleep. It's not a long walk, but it is a bit bumpy, and on dark nights, it seems even longer. Solution? Solar lights! The path home...

Stay tuned...

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