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Andiamo enters the Stone Age…

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The long delayed galley redux is complete. It’s taken almost 2 years to get to this point. Two LONG years, of looking at hideous, cracking, warping, formica and all the misery that goes with it. It’s gone from Andiamo. Forever.

I was hoping that a formica job that I completed in Honduras a few years back would hold up for a good while. Boy was I wrong. Within a year, it started warping, cracking, and basically just looking ugly. I decided that I wasn’t going to touch formica again after this go around. I would wait until I was somewhere I can get Corian or some other durable countertop and change them once and for all.

I was encouraged when I got to Cartagena in late ’07. There were a couple of guys doing corian or corian-equivalent countertops for a fraction of what it would cost stateside. I tried several times to get a quote and a timeline, only to get the same answer over and over again. “We’re really busy right now and can’t take on anymore work, try again in a month or so”.

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After a good year of trying, I finally got on somebody’s schedule. I was doing trips between Panama and Cartagena at the time, and Andiamo was on a really tight and busy schedule herself. I did know that we’d be back in Cartagena in May of ’09 and made an appointment for the work to get that done during that time. I did warn the guy doing the work that we would only be in Cartagena for about 10 days. The work would need to be done FAST and on-time during that window. Being that it was early March, the guy said he wasn’t worried with all that lead time. He made the needed templates and took the measurements he needed, and said he would see us in May.

Well, May came, and we arrived in Cartagena on schedule. Problem was, that the guy wasn’t ready for us, NOR had he even ordered the color and style of Corian I picked out. Needless to say I was pissed. He tried to get me to want some nasty puke-green color that he had in stock in desperation. I told him to stuff it and give me money back. It took him the rest of the week to get me three quarters of my deposit back from him. I never saw the rest. There would be no corian in my near future. 🙁

Fast forward to Spring 2010. Andiamo’s galley is still hanging on, though desperately. Further exacerbating things was the old stove I had. It’s been on its way out for some time. Just getting old and oxidized, it was time to give it the heave-ho. I had been looking far and wide for a suitable replacement that wouldn’t cost a fortune to get to Panama, for some time, with no luck.

Myriam, a cool Canadian chica who had been on Andiamo in January, was coming back to Panama in the spring to spend some of her vacation time before heading off to the Arctic Circle for 3 months, where she works at a weather station. She chats me one day and tells me she found me a nice propane stove in Canada that was not only a great price, but she can take it along with her as baggage! After carefully assessing that it would fit, etc. I gave her the greenlight to get it.

Two weeks later, Myriam arrives in Panama, with new stove in tow. I’m so excited to get the thing on board, we go back to Andiamo the next day. After pulling out the old stove, to install the new one, utter and complete depression sets in. The new stove is about ONE QUARTER INCH too wide for the space that the galley provides for the stove! ONE QUARTER INCH. i could have sworn I took good measurements based on the specs information provided on the stove’s website. It didn’t matter. This stove was not going to fit without some serious finagling and Tony-engineering.

Since I knew the impending galley makeover was inevitable and HAD to happen this year, I made a decision. I opted to wait until I had the whole galley torn up for the new countertop to install the new stove. Surely I would find some good Corian or other type of non-formica countertop in Panama somewhere for a good price! And any modifications to the stove space can be done at the same time.

And did I ever find a deal. I was walking through a Novey store (Panama’s answer to Home Depot more or less) a few months ago, and there it was. Granite. A whole slab of it with a bullnose piece for trim and backsplash, in a color I liked, for under a hundred bucks.

Hmmm… I thought… granite countertops on a boat? Does that make sense? After all, granite’s pretty heavy isn’t it? Then again, my galley is small. I have barely any countertop space anyway! Surely a few pieces of granite won’t be that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things weight-wise. Couple my logic with the price, and granite was looking really good to me.
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I found myself asking, how would I cut the countertop to size and to the pieces I needed? After asking a couple of clerks at the store, who were less than useless, one guy said he knew a guy who does the cutting, and that he can give me his number. Armed with that information, I ordered the countertop, and was told I’d have it in five days, they would call me when it arrives in the store.

Eight days later, I go by the store to see what’s up. Nobody knows nada. One guy says he’ll make a call to the warehouse to see what’s up. Nothing. A week later, I go back to the store, and say I need to get a refund if they don’t have the granite there waiting for me. A girl, says, “Oh yeah, we have your granite, it’s been here for days!” She walks me over to a slab of granite they have laying down in their garden department. Only problem is that it’s not even close to the color or style I ordered. After swearing to me over and over again that it was the one I ordered, I walked out of the store with my refund, but still no countertop.

Cut to the chase, I ended up getting one by almost sheer accident. My friend Mitzy is at another Novey store over by where she works, and she sees that the store has the countertop I was wanting, in stock. I ask her to buy it for me and arrange for it to get picked up by my usual driver, Carlos. He eventually picks it up and brings it to Mitzy’s apartment building, where it shall wait until I get the guy over to give me a quote and eta on the cutting job. [singlepic id=25 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Two weeks later, I still don’t have a guy lined up to cut the damn thing. The guy who I was referred to by the clerk at Novey just ends up blowing me off, as well as Mitzy, who kept trying to get him on the phone when I was out of the city doing trips. After going to another store that sells granite countertops, we get referred to another guy who agrees to meet me the next morning to give me a quote.

He finally shows up, and after checking out the job details, he gives me a quote. of almost THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS. I look at him and decide that the rate sounds a bit high, especially considering that I only paid under a hundred bucks for the granite. It sounded a bit steep for what would essentially be a 4-5 hour job. By chance, Mitzy’s landlord overheard us talking to him about the countertop job, and tells her she should call his dad because he has a crew that does that kind of work.

FINALLY, I get a firm quote for the job, which is still a bit high, but at least a price I can live with. The guys show up on time, and the work gets done in record time. I’m actually impressed, they do a good job. Now that the pieces are all coming together, I call Carlos my driver to get me the next morning. The plan is to head back to Andiamo install the new countertops, my new sink and the new stove I’ve had for almost seven months now, then head back to Panama City to catch my flight out of town for a week-long jaunt I have planned to a wonderful forbidden island.

Unfortunately, my driver doesn’t show up. I end up being stuck in Panama for another day. The next day, he wants to pick me up too late in the day where I wouldn’t have enough time to do the job and then go back to the city to catch my flight. The project will have to wait until I get back.

Fast forward another week, and I’m back in Panama after an incredible six nights of traveling in a place I’ve wanted to visit for years (blog post coming). Finally, all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. I get to Andiamo and am ready to work. Dino and his sons are there to assist.

The teardown took an incredibly short amount of time. Within a few hours the old countertops and sinks are out. Cleanup and preparation phase is on. That’s when I realized I left a few key pieces of the granite back in Panama City. Things just keep getting better. After coordinating with Carlos and Mitzy about the missing pieces, I get word that the pieces will be in San Blas the next morning.

Finally, I have all the pieces onboard, and proceed with the installation. Dino and I labor for pretty much the whole day. Everything fit the way it should, but there was a lot of finagling and improvisation I had to do with the wood trim that goes around the countertop. Then, came in the modifications we had to do to the space that holds the galley stove so the new albeit slightly wider stove can fit. That takes us the rest of the afternoon.

Getting the stove installed is the worst part. It is a gut-wrenching, stress inducing process. But we finally get the damn thing in, and level no less. Before long, I find myself applying the final beads of silicone and checking the sink for any leaks. It finally looks like a working galley again.

And dare I say, it better look that way for a pretty damn long time.

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