After closing on the sale of Vela in Long Beach, California in November 2014, Captain Nervo and his crew embarked on the 3000 nautical mile sail to Panama. After a mostly calm and uneventful trip, with the exception of one wild day off the coast of Costa Rica (pictured), Vela arrived at Flamenco Marina in Amador, Panama. Here she spent several months at anchor while the conversion project began.
Being at anchor posed some logistical problems. As the ship was about a half mile from shore, a long dinghy ride was necessary to bring provisions, equipment, and even fuel and water on board. Fuel and water were carried in the dinghy (or panga, as they are called in Spanish) in a portable tank in small amounts. Sheets of steel and welding tanks were carried the same way. This was backbreaking and sometimes tedious work, but our wonderful mostly-Ecuadorian crew uncomplainingly did everything that needed to be done.
Almost the entire interior of the vessel had to be torn out in preparation for the construction of guest cabins later on. This produced a mountain of wood, scrap metal, and various other bits of flotsam and jetsam! Much of what was removed was moved on to a nearby trawler.
In May, the decision was made to take Vela through the Panama Canal and on to the Caribbean, so that the crossing could be completed before hurricane season. After transiting the Panama Canal, it took about 9 days for Vela to reach St Vincent Shipyard, where she would be berthed for the next few months.
To be continued….