It’s been a while…

Log: 812nm
Engine: 431h
Position: N58' 54.1" E17' 26.7"(south of stockholm)

Still not too much to write home about. I’m just south of Stockholm and decided to take a break. I’m on holidays after all. So I spent more time listening to audio books, tanning or rummaging through the interwebs.

I’m getting more confident with stuff but sailing is throwing new challenges at me constantly (or I pick them). I finally installed a solar panel. A sorry resemblance of what I would like to run but this boat is small and it is difficult to fit a panel. It’s almost enough though, since I have no fridge and no 12V computer (only a tablet) and most lights are converted to LEDs I don’t need much Wattage. But I miss the solar array of the van. And the fridge.

After some nights of worrying I’m more comfortable with lying at anchor. Mostly because retrieving the anchor is quite some work in most cases. So it sticks there pretty good, the ground is mostly composed of some clay/mud mixture. And there are no waves in the Archipelago.

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Different types of mooring still give me trouble at times. Luckily it’s high season right now, so there is always a crowd of spectators when I’m drifting around in the harbor preparing/trying to get into a berth. So far I love the swedish Y-style finger berth because every boat has it’s own box so it’s impossible to crash into somebody else. Anchoring with a stern buoy or anchor still gives me troubles. Doing it single handed there seems no other way then leaving the helm, walking forwards, jumping over and attaching a line. I don’t like that. And I still haven’t dared to directly anchor to a rock in the wilderness like most locals do. All in good time I guess.

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just some guy paddling his plane the last meters to his weekend cottage

On the upside I’m getting more used to sailing. When I began sailing close hauled with quite some list sort of creeped me out. My brain said “It’s ok” and my gut said “I’m afraid”. I didn’t touch my genoa for the first weeks because I was afraid of the wind becoming to strong and loosing control of the boat/changing headsails under wind. Yesterday I caught myself bashing 5.5 knots upwind under genoa leisurely listening to an audio book while seawater was filling up my kitchen sink through the drain and was just about to splash out of there. This hasn’t happened before, so I guess the boat never leaned over that far yet. After a short “ooopsi” I just closed the seacock of the sink and adjusted the main traveller to reduce the list a bit. Yeah, I’m getting used to that shit…

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Sailing in a archipelago sometimes resemble flying a heli in your living room. See the red and the two green posts. Yep, you have to pass between red and green or you’re on the rocks. A tight bent to the left of the picture. Under sail in really gusty conditions (double reefed mainsail)

My biggest problem so far has been loneliness I guess. Not just for the complications of single handed sailing but also for a lack of company. You meet sailors in every port but most of them live quite a different life. It’s difficult to connect to them. They give me weird looks while they wash their boat every day. I give them weird looks for wasting so much water. My boat is too shabby, my clothing to used up, … Most folks could be my parents of even grand parents.

But every once in a while there are some folks who get me. Like one couple well in their 70s on a 50 year old steel vessel. Some passer-by described the boat as “she has seen things”. Yep, they are sailing her for 40odd years and after circumnavigating the world they now have a look at the places they speed by on previous jouneys, like the hanö-bay for example. I spent at least an hour just looking at the boat and the gazillion little details they added over the years.

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Definite role models for getting old…

And they’re tough as nails. For example constant problems with sea-sickness is no reason not to sail around the world. And Inge had the best reaction to my story so far. She basically was just surprised that other folks see what I’m doing as daring, brave, haphazard, stupid or whatever. “You did get training, your vessel is suitable for single handing, so where is the problem?” she asked. It is weird, most seasoned sailors I meet approve of what I’m doing while most hobbyists more or less disapprove. I guess listening to the pros really is a generic piece of advise.

Three month anniversary!

On the 26th of march I set foot on a sailing yacht for the first time. Or at least so far I can remember. Since then I passed a sailing license, bought a boat (which btw. doesn’t require a license) and fixed her up to a state which allows travelling. I did around 550nm during training and sailed around 450nm miles on my own, most of these “single handed”, meaning I was the only person on board. So I didn’t really come that far up to now but it’s still quite an achievement.

Most delays were due to fixing stuff. From the top of my head: Alternator belt, starter motor, impeller, throttle/gear lever + morse cables, topping lift and main halyard including guidance thingys, autopilot, miscellaneous electrickery, main traveler + rail, replacing misc cotter pins, adjusting stays, removing bathing ladder (to make place for the windvane), replaced ground tackle (two new anchors, new anchor rope + old chain, new swivel, fancy belt on a roller for the stern anchor), new winch foundations, disassembled cleaned and re-greased almost all winches, replaced mooring lines, replaced pyro signals, added a led strip, …

In my head this kind of sounds like two days of labor but it took much longer. There were some lengthy failures like for example reviving the speedometer (log). It still doesn’t measure my speed but at least it shows stuff on the display and measures water temperature.

People say it takes about two years of getting to know every nook and cranny of your boat. I’m guestimating I’m already there.

But yeah, most folks are only able to put a couple of hours after work/on the weekend into the boat or into sailing. I did that almost full time. 1000ish nautical miles with an average speed of around 4.5 knots would mean around 220 hours of sailing. Another 200ish hours for tinkering on the boat or on boat related stuff (f.e. examining at least ten boats between the baltic sea and the netherlands), maybe 80 hours of “other stuff” like work/taxes/organizing being away for a couple of months. 480 hours in three months. Thats working a full time job without vacation. No wonder I feel exhausted.

I literally felt like walking away from the whole thing for a couple of times. For different reasons sailing is a very lonely experience, as is staying in harbors. Everything is kinda sorta new and scary so it’s mentally exhausting. With competent crew it always feels like you have a choice whether you do a certain task or not. If you don’t feel like going on the foredeck in choppy seas to raise the sails somebody else will. If you choose to cook you most likely don’t have to take care of the dishes, …

In single handed sailing you have to do all the f*cking tasks all the time. And you have to multi-task. While fiddling with stuff on the foredeck you have to keep an eye out to not crash into other vessels, buoys, shallow spots, … If the auto pilot f*cks up you have to go back to the cockpit, take care of it and then go back on the foredeck. If a line gets caught somewhere you have to go there and untangle it. You have to do all the shopping and even if you just want to fasten a simple screw going through the deck there is nobody around to hold the wrench on the other side.

One of my goals of this undertaking was to find out if I’m able to single-hand a vessel for a longer period of time. It seems I can. I need more practice and the fun to exhaustion ratio is still off but it seems feasible. I’m doing not too bad at all. The big question will be if I want to.

Here is the last couple of weeks in pictures, didn’t really feel link writing much.

More Safety

come on baby and rescue me ... - The Supremes
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Caliber 4 rockets, red flares and orange smoke. And a “rescue me”.

It feels awkward to spend more than 500€ on stuff you’ll probably (and hopefully) never use. After some thinking I did bite the bullet. The old flares and rockets were more than ten years past their due date. Since I (officially) have no radio and electrickery likes to fail just when you need it most, some pyrotechniques might come in handy.

The little yellow/grey fellow is a fine example of modern electronics. Mostly sailing alone, going overboard is considered a death sentence. Your boat probably is on auto pilot and will go on until the battery is dead, the wind changes significantly or it hits something. So there you are, alone in the ocean. Many single-handers used to not wear life vests so it would be over fast if they go overboard. But nowadays you just call a cab. The little fella has batteries which last until 2025, a gps receiver to calculate your position and a satphone (or modem) to text your position to a maritime rescue coordination centre (MRCC). Since registration in germany is kind of complicated and the device must be bound to a ship (even though it’s a personal locator beacon (PLB)) I registered it in the UK. So in case I go overboard in germany, I press a button, the little thingy texts my position to falmouth, cornwall mrcc and then somebody rings up the folks at bremen mrcc who then ring up the nearest SAR unit and/or coordinates the search with other vessels in the area. Amazing!

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Tied to the innards of my life vest/floatation device

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… and its gone :-)

My first “passage”

log: 246nm
engine: 393,3h
Location: Heiligenhafen, Germany

With around 36nm (66km) my first passage might also be the longest of the trip. At least it was the longest stretch of open water I “had to” pass. Why not just hug the shore you might ask? Well, our friends from the German navy are protecting our freedom just here by celebrating fireworks every f*cking day from 9-17h. At least in the summer season, they do less shooting when the weather gets crappy. And they don’t shoot on weekends, but the lack of wind crossed that on off my list of possibilities. So my beloved government is wasting my tax money and forcing me to take a detour at the same time. They post their shooting schedule on the interwebs. They announce it via radio. There are signs in the harbours around which show the times. There “traffic light” kind of installations which blink when they are shooting. And there are these buoys marking the territory. Let’s say I’m pretty unhappy to pay for all of this.

you got to stay outside the yellow “x”es

So I was sailing clearly going around the shooting range when a navy ship approached me. They circled around me and used their loud-hailer to ask me to turn on my radio. I tried to signal that I don’t have a radio so they went on: “for your information: we are shooting today, so pass all yellow buoys, …”. Ok, so I’m paying these guys as well to annoy the fuck out of me and tell me stuff I already know. Awesome. One might think our cost savy navy would use a small, economical vessel for running parameter security. A small vessel like the ones used by local fisherman. Or like the ones of the local search and rescue (SAR). Maybe even a RIB. Nope. Meet the Todendorf Class:

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Y 837, the “Baumholder”

Named after this range and purpose build for running parameter security. 29 meters long, 2000hp engines, a whopping 125tons of steel. Unarmed and probably useless in combat. And from the looks of it stock maritime radar, no fancy navy stuff. Five of these were build, one sold to the Lebanese, rest still in action. What a waste building these things just for yelling at pleasure vessels/small craft.

Turning another page

Log: 210nm
Engine: 391,7h
Location: Wendtorf, Germany

Alright, I guess the prologue is about to end and we’ll enter story-mode soon. The last couple of days were spent with daysailing, training, socializing and getting stuff done. The training part is also the explanation of the increase in engine hours, the baltic is mostly “box” berths, so no jetty in parallel to your boat.

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box berth

It’s funny, I loved this kind of berths in training because with crew, you can hardly fail if you know the right line handling manoeuvre. No it’s taking me quite some time to get used to them because single-handing these is kinda tricky and my boat is kind of special/different with quite some prop walk and the very narrow stern.

Talking of training. I did two training trips this year, one with a very nice instructor and one with one I hate. Not my kind of guy, some stuff he teaches is ok, some is haphazard or dangerous. Oldschool drill Sargent, if you don’t succeed he yells at you until you give up or succeed. Some crew broke into tears. Totally unacceptable. Luckily that guy skippered the second trip so I had decent training before. Bad luck for the other crewmates because I had to do all tricky manoeuvres “because I did it before”. Or the skipper took over because he thought we were not skilled enough. Anyways, I liked him best when he was under deck and I was not. And him being lazy he was under deck a lot. So one day I see a boat with the ensign of my sail school. Hmm, looks like the one I did my training on. Shoddy sail trim, nobody on deck looks like an instructor, it’s Thursday so the course is almost over. Might it be W.  So I turned and ensured my sail trim was ok. And I started gaining.

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looksie! That’s the boat I mastered my license on…

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and then I overtook them. Leewards. Easily.

When I was alongside W. finally came up and we exchanged some pleasantries. At least he knows his sailboats and correctly identified my iw-31.

Some kind folks gave me very comfy cockpit cushions and one of my neighbours even fabricated some mounts for the windvane for me. Thanks guys! Hanging out in harbours is kind of weird. Seems sailing (or boating in general) is not too common for folks of my age or younger. There are few, most folks you meet are 50+ and are sailing their whole life. So I feel kind of lonely and well entertained at the same time. Sometimes it’s sort of looking at different possible “feature me”. Sometimes it’s just plain awful, like today, sitting at a bar, eating horrible food and listening to old people talking about death and different funeral options. And my phone’s battery was dead. I really hope I’ll die on my feet doing something I like. Or maybe lying down and doing something I love. Whatever, as long as I won’t just spent my days waiting for death. I hate waiting.

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kiel lighthouse

So yeah, did I finish all work on the boat? Nope. Is the boat ready to go? Kinda, sorta… Do I feel ready to tackle this adventure? Not really. So yeah, all in all it’s time to go. If you wait too long you’ll never get started. Having problems along the way gives you a good incentive to approach folks. Spilling the guts of whatever technical on your deck makes nice folks stop by say hello. After all travelling is the name of the game, not holidays.

(Disclaimer: I put a month worth of work and a good amount of money into the boat, mostly on safety related stuff. The vessel is a sea-worthy offshore cruiser-racer, CE Category A-rated (meaning it’s able to withstand winds with more than force 8 and waves over 4m height). People crossed the Atlantic with this thing. I’ll do short leisure sails in good weather. I’ll be fine.)

Back on track

location: Kiel Stickenhörn, Germany
log: 162nm
engine: 384.4h

Alright, the engine is running again and the forecast says the next two days might be good sailing. The only problem is that I want to travel east and the wind is currently coming from there. And there is a big navy training ground in the same direction which limits my possibilities to crisscross upwind. And since I didn’t want to pay for the maps going north or west it’s probably sea trials / running circles and not going somewhere specific. We’ll see. There is still plenty on the ToDo list but at least it seems like the work on propulsion is getting less and I can start to work on ground tackle and the solar/battery system enabling me to actually anchor out. Oh, and I’ll need some kind of dinghy.

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Correct old part vs. wrong new part. It’s pretty obvious the shiny one is too large, even though flange, gear and all connectors match.

Anyways, after yesterdays débâcle with the wrong starter the correct part arrived today. Kinda funny, I needed a part for a Nanni Marine Diesel. So I ordered one for a Suzuki Jeep, which came in a Kubota Box and was originally made by Mitsubishi and refurbished by Elstock. Yeah, whatever. It fits and it was cheap, at least compared to the original part (which was made by Mitsubishi as well and is a match on the part number). And I’m still waiting on the quote from Nanni. Probably somewhere between 400€ and 800€. So 120€ at a local dealership isn’t too bad, tomorrow the backup order from the interwebs arrives, 80€.

IMG_2111Changing the thing is not too bad for marine standards but still painful. The part itself is fastened by two screws. You only have to remove the alternator, hoist the engine up on one side, remove one engine mount and that is basically it. The practical thing about sailboats is that you can use the main halyard or topping lift for that, so yes, the white and black rope goes all the way up the mast, back down again and to a winch.

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After reassembly only the shiny solenoid shows. The rest of the starter is hidden behind other stuff

While I was on it I also repaired the temperature sensor. One contact broke off. Normally I would have just bought a new one for ten euros or so. But since this is a marine temperature sensor it costs 50€ on ebay and probably much more in a shop. So I did the obvious and cut open the enclosure to solder a piece of cable on the stump of the old contact.

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Fabricobbled a new contact

 

… still working on it

 Does it ever eeend? -- AvE

I finished the kiel canal without major problems. Only the starter acted up more and more. I left the engine running while waiting for the kiel holtenau lock to open. After that I stopped in the next harbour to barter a crate of beer for some spare parts. Oh, I love the interwebs for these kind of things.

Then I took of the starter solenoid, cleaned and oiled it. Still not working properly. Took of the whole starter, greased the shaft. Still not working. Took it off again, completely disassembled it and found out the free running thingy slipped (imagine your mountainbike. Normally the rear wheel hub runs freely when you are not treading and engages if you are treading allowing you to accelerate. This specimen runs freely (under load) in both directions). IMG_2118So I have to order a part. I’m still waiting for a quote from the engine manufacturer / their dealership. In the meantime I did some digging on the web. Mr. Nanni from Italy is making his marine engines from parts of Mr. Kubota, Japan. Mr. Kubota is some relative of Mr. Mitsubishi, so they sourced some of their starters there. Mr. Mitsubishi is kind of the Japanese Version of ACME, and sold the exact same starters to Mr. Suzuki and Mr. Toyota for the LJ80, SJ410 and 70ties Corolla. So you can either go to some Marine Engine Guy paying him to order at Mr.Nanni who will order at Mr. Kubota who will order at Mr Mitsubishi or somewhere else. That’s time consuming and expensive. Or you take Mr. Mitsubishis Part Number (which Mr Nanni was too lazy to scrape it off) and go to any car parts store and order from any supplier available. Cut out the middle man and remove the “marine” from the equation means great price reduction. But also great risk. Today I got a spare part which matches the part numbers only “one-way”. The delivered starter has the right gear, flange and such but is much larger. Too long and too wide. I actually went to a car part store in person, put the old starter on the counter and they ordered the new one. My starter is part number M2T30481, the delivered a replacement for M2T30581. The fun part is that my starter can always replace the other one (same oompfh, flange, … smaller envelope) and the other one can sometimes replace my starter (if there is enough space). So yeah, I was afraid to mess up the order and so paid extra to let a specialist fuck it up. Classic. Next time I might just order it online in the first place, many folks actually post pictures of the wares making it quite easy to distinguish subtle differences.

… and so it begins

Captains Log, Stardate 69864.7. We left the river Elbe through the Brünsbüttel Lock, entering the Kiel Canal. Currently berthed at Brunsbüttel Harbor. We left the influence of these weird reoccurring stream phenomena and set course to this seasons research ground: the baltic sea.

Happy Geeks Pride Day Everyone! And mind your Towels while watching Star Wars Episode IV. Quite cramed day it is. Ok, enough of that.

Today started as any well planned passage starts. I prepared everything I could and announced the ship is ready for sea. Sure, there are a gazillion of items on the ToDo list but I crossed of plenty of important stuff. So I woke up at the prepared time and my crew showed up at the time we agreed upon. Then we turned the ignition key and all we heard was the whining of a starter clutch which isn’t engaging the flywheel. No spinning flywheel means no cylinders moving meaning no combustion which renders a combustion engine useless. Tried ten or more times, just wasn’t starting. Hmm, isn’t there some item on the ToDo list for investigating the starter solenoid because it was acting up occasionally? Yep. Didn’t cross that one off. So there we were, ready to leave on the falling tide with no time to spare. And Kiel Canal legally forces you to use your engine and mostly has no wind so going under sails alone wasn’t really an option.

So we busted out the trusted special tool for non-cooperating mechanical stuff and started classic percussive maintenance. Worked like a treat and off we went.

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My favourite “friendly enforcer”. Metal core filled with sand for recoil reduction, hard plastic hitting surface and a long, grippy rubber handle. If you hold it on the front of the handle you can make very gentle tap-a-di-tap-tap and if you grap the handle fully you can beat the crap out of things without leaving indentation marks.

Smooth sailing from there, forgot to take pics.

I was kind of afraid of single handing the lock. Luckily S. agreed to tag along, so I had great and also very skilful company. We agreed that I would take the first try on my own and he would only engage if things went sideways. And as always, when you bring skilled folks along to help you out, the conditions are ideal, you are totally relaxed and everything goes super smooth. It is as if the situation smells that your specialist has done the thing a hundred times and so it plays nicely, hoping to fuck you up badly next time when you come alone.

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Some local sailor.

One last picture which pretty much sums up sailing the elbe. There is a lee shore and a pile of stones leading into the water marked by a cardinal warning sign. My instructors told us to keep well clear (100m or more) of these signs and keep a even wider berth to lee shores. These rules don’t apply here. Some say if you can sail on this river you can sail anywhere. I don’t know, I sailed around 100nm on the river, half of which alone. I did survive but it wasn’t relaxing. I had to be constantly on my toes planning my route between moving and stationary obstacles while coping with weird tidal phenomena and constant wind shifts. I’m looking forward to go there again sometime to explore the beauty of it. But for now I’ll seek out less crowded waters to take my time to actually learn how to sail. Drinking water from a firehose is kinda fun but it wears you out after some time.

Working on it….

I guess it’s best summed up by the A-Team Theme or “Working on it” by Mark Knopfler. Long days of fiddeling with stuff. You fuck it up and try again until you succeed. You don’t have the right tools/workshop so you pay others to fuck it up. And then you search for ways to make it right. It takes time, sweat, blood and tears. For example the cooperation with the metal shop: I needed an adapter which is basically 8 holes on one radius and four holes on an different radius. I fucked up measuring the inner radius, the guy from the metalshop put six holes on both radiusses messing up all the angles. The final thing looks like swiss cheese but will do the job.

You befriend some locals on the way who can relate in some way or another. These are mostly a really kind and supportive bunch. They give/sell you stuff you need for little money. They walk you through maps of the local waters and share their wisdom and experience. When you’re down they encourage you. I dunno why but it really means a great deal to me if someone with 40odd years of experience in something tells newbie me something along the lines of “hey, you’re doing ok, you’ll be fine”.

Others think you’re stupid or haphazard or just from another planet. Some just don’t like you because you look like some punk. Some give weird / useless / dangerous advise. With time you learn to choose wisely what advise to adhere to and what not. And you’ll sometimes have to change your mind. For example one of my instructors went furious when somebody started whistling on the boat. I asked him why and he responded “because it’s tradition”. He did it just for the fun of criticising people. Ok, I decided, I’ll whistle on my own ship as much as I want. I talked about that with S. and he just answered that he is really strict on the whistling issue as well because the wind whistles in the rigging if it picks up or a gust hits you. So it’s a warning sign for the helmsman and the person on the main sheet to take immediate action to counter the gust (counter steer/ease sheet/adjust traveller, …). So if somebody is whistling these folks either don’t hear the gust coming or they take measures without a cause. Ok, so no whistling on my ship, I changed my mind on that completely because somebody provided a proper reason for doing things. And now I know on telltale for oncoming gusts…

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Main Halyard and Topping Lift crisscrossed, the further already ate through the roller and into the aluminum

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new rollers, replaced the steel wire halyard with dyneema and replaced the undersized topping lift as well. And now they run in parallel

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unfucking the fuckup by the metal shop by drilling extra holes in the ship. according to the guy in the shop drilling high grade stainless is impossible with a hand drill. Well, it takes lot’s of pressure, low rpm, oil for cooling and a sharp drill bit (good HSS or TiN)

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some just like to watch…

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The old main traveller crapped out on the last sail and no supplier had something in store for the mounted track…

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…so in goes the new, shiny and more beefy…

Learning about marine specific engine parts: meet the impreller.

Learning about marine specific engine parts: meet the impeller. That little guy is pumping sea water for cooling the engine.

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trying to unfuck some instruments. This one had broken cables, water ingress and some previous owner removed the data cable by cutting it into different pieces…

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big ship passing by

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Some kind soul sold me a self steering windvane for a real bargain. But it needs some modification so it has to be completely disassembled before cutting & welding

It feels like slow progress but actually I’m not doing too bad. On the 26th of march, I first set foot on a sailing yacht and around two month later I’m licensed to operate such a craft commercially, bought my own and made did a bunch of repairs / upgrades. Not too bad at all actually. I guess I can set sail soonish and do the rest of the outfitting en route. Cruising after all is mostly doing boat maintenance in exotic places.

Pornstyler revived

It has been sitting for six month. The fuel pump was almost dead and I ripped out the wideband lambda to analyse the car of a friend. A storm put water through the tilted sunroof and I forgot to turn off the interior light after soaking up the water thus emptying the battery. Today I jacked it up, threw in a new fuel pump and the recharged battery. Turned on and off the ignition a couple of times to create fuel pressure in the empty lines (changing the pump got kinda messy). And what happened? The thing just started up and purred along. I LOVE these old mercs. I just had to add some fuel, air up the tires and it performed flawlessly on an extended test drive including a stretch of autobahn.

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jacked up and secured with a three legged stand

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Parking lot after six month. Quite grimy and some grass growing. And still leftovers from new years fireworks…