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